Former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino discussed in detail the serious training he and his colleagues had to go through to ensure that they can properly use the bathroom while in space. According to the astronaut, the main focus of the training exercises was to improve their accuracy when using the toilet.

During his time with NASA, Massimino was part of two spaceflight missions that took place in 2002 and 2009. The first was the STS-109 mission aboard Space Shuttle Columbia and the second one STS-125 mission with Space Shuttle Atlantis.

According to Massimino, like the other activities astronauts do in space, going to the bathroom is a very serious matter. He said that before heading to space, astronauts had to practice first on a simulator toilet to improve their aim and accuracy.

“Pooping in space was very involved because you really don’t want to mess this up,” Massimino explained in a Wired video. “The key to this, the way it was explained to us and I agree, the key to this is alignment. Next to our real shuttle toilet in the simulator, we had a practice toilet that was not for defecating. It was made for alignment practice.”

Massimino explained that the simulator toilet had a camera inside it that was connected to a monitor that astronauts can use to check if they’re right on target.

“This camera is pointed up at you,” he said. “When you sat on this you had a call circuit TV right here so you would see on the camera whether or not you were aligned with the target area.”

“The idea was to then try to memorize what that body position was,” he continued.

astronaut Author Ron Garan is pictured working with Earth shown in the background. Photo: Mike Fossum/NASA

Since microgravity is also part of the training process, the simulator toilets had moveable arms that were specifically designed to keep astronauts from floating away while they’re doing their business. In addition to this, astronauts also relied on a small mirror to check if everything went well inside the toilet.

In other words, as they stand up from the toilet, they had to make sure that nothing was floating back up.

“After you take care of business we had a couple of things to watch out for,” Massimino recalled. “We had a mirror that we would be trained to then take. We would take this mirror and then put it behind us so as we got off the toilet we saw if anything was following us, if you get what I mean.”

“If there was something following you, you would sit back down and do whatever you think was necessary to make sure whatever was following you off the seat remained where it’s supposed to,” he added.

You can watch the full explanation starting atthe 3:30 mark of the video: