On May 5, 1961, NASA astronaut Alan Shepard was locked into his capsule Freedom 7, ready to become the first American and second person ever in space. But before his 15-minute historic flight, Shepard would sit through five hours of delays - and he really had to go to the bathroom.
"Man, I got to pee," he radioed launch control.
NASA officials weren't prepared for this situation. They thought the mission would be short enough to avoid it, and letting Alan Shepard urinate in his shiny silver spacesuit was not something they were ready to do; the astronaut was wired with medical sensors that might get wrecked if wet. But eventually, launch control had no choice but to let him to go.
"You think it's glamorous being an astronaut? It's a lot of hard work and a lot of indignity as well," Mark Roberts, a tour guide at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City, said during the museum's recent summer SpaceFest last month. [Space Toilet Technique: NASA's How-To Guide (Video)]
After Shepard's debacle, NASA devised better ways to take care of basic bodily functions. But space waste continued the plague the agency.