NASA calls for a contest to develop an astronaut toilet that works on the Moon


NASA launched a new technological challenge, and to achieve this it especially needs the collaboration of the public. Under the slogan “Lunar Loo Challenge”, this US government agency wants to develop the best design of a space bathroom that can work on the Moon.

The competition emerged as part of the Artemis program, which aims to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024, the lander will take astronauts from lunar orbit to the surface of the Moon.

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The development of a “lunar toilet” means that it must meet certain technical characteristics that make it versatile: it will have to operate in orbit, where astronauts will have no weight, and also when astronauts experience one-sixth of Earth’s gravity on Earth. lunar surface.

To carry it forward and capture public attention, NASA plans to award up to $ 35,000 in prizes, and an added bonus: the winner’s space throne will take its place in the lander.

“We wanted to see what’s out there, what the unknown unknowns are and put the power of the crowd to find those citizen scientists who have different perspectives,” Mike Interbartolo, project manager for the Lunar Loo Challenge, told The Verge site. .

The other space toilets

The Apollo spacecraft that took humans to the Moon in 1968 had no toilets as we know them. For example, astronauts every time they had to urinate they had to do it in a rubber tube, similar in characteristics to a latex condom, which transferred the liquid out of the spacecraft or into a storage container.

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Something worse happened with the human excrement. The crew had to use plastic bags with adhesive rings around the edge, which were attached to their backs.

The space toilet currently used by the International Space Station.

The space toilet currently used by the International Space Station.

“He had no odor control. The crew hated him. It was not easy to seal the bag well without your partner having to help. And that is not the way we want to return to the Moon more than 50 years later, “acknowledged Interbartolo.

But the US aerospace organization wants something a little different for the future lander. “All those toilets were mainly microgravity,” says Interbartolo. “They don’t have to worry about going down to a gravity well and going back up, like a lander does.”

NASA expects that the next spacecraft can take 20-24 hours to travel from lunar orbit to the surface. “So obviously that is out of control simply by holding it or wearing a diaper in your spacesuit,” says Interbartolo. Astronauts will then potentially spend six and a half days on the Moon, and a bath will be even more than necessary.

Furthermore, NASA also plans to test a new bathroom on the International Space Station by the end of 2020. Called the Universal Waste Management System, the toilet will eventually be used in the agency’s future Orion spacecraft, which will carry the astronauts to lunar orbit.

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