Yesterday the space shuttle Discovery blasted off and headed for the International Space Station. The Discovery is transporting Japan's one billion dollar lab designed to study and measure something delightful to the scientific mind. However, more urgent than the lab, Discovery is bringing a pump for the International Space Station's toilet. For an uncomfortable period of time, the space station's current residents have been using a spare toilet difficult to get to and limited in capacity. Okay. All of that seems important. I mean, how much can a pump for a toilet cost? Of course, the Discovery did take off on a Saturday so that would be considered, by earth plumbers' standards, after hours. That adds a little more to the bill. Apparently, though, money is of no importance when compared to how crucial it is to keep a ram shackle hut afloat in outer space.
The 2008 budget for NASA is roughly 17.3 billion dollars of which 6.7 billion dollars is allocated to space operations -- the International Space Station and the shuttle missions. Each shuttle flight costs approximately 427 million dollars. This Discovery flight will doubtless cost more on account of, you know, the after hours plumbing job plus parts.
In the meantime, on this international space station we call Earth, people live in slum lorded apartments where the toilets haven't flushed in months. Or people who have never seen a toilet use rivers and streets for urination and defecation. And, yes, some people are so ravaged by famine that they no longer have need of places to contain bodily wastes because their bodies are too wasted.
If health is all about balance, then flying toilet pumps into outer space seems pretty unhealthy. Unless, of course, you happen to be the guy whose legs have been crossed for so long he's forgotten he can walk.