Including astronauts, who since the start of the space age have found ways to do their business at near zero gravity – Apollo missions when waste management was, in NASA’s words, “a plastic bag that was taped to the buttocks to capture feces ”. to more advanced toilets on the International Space Station that use ventilated suction systems.
Now the U.S. space agency is calling on the world’s inventors to develop toilets that work not only in microgravity, but also in lunar gravity on a future lunar spacecraft, as part of its plans to return to the moon by 2024. as part of the Artemis mission.
The winning design will receive $ 20,000, including $ 10,000 for second place and $ 5,000 for third. Children under the age of 18 are also encouraged to apply in a “junior” category where the awards are public recognition and NASA themed products.
“This challenge hopes to attract radically new and different approaches to the problem of human waste capture and containment,” NASA wrote in a preview of the challenge released Thursday (https://www.herox.com/LunarLoo).
The toilet should work on the gravity of the Moon, which is about one-sixth of the Earth – so the urine and feces will fall, although there is less plop.
It shouldn’t occupy more than 0.12 cubic meters (4.2 cubic feet) and operate with a noise level below 60 decibels – roughly equal to a bathroom ventilation fan on Earth.
Most importantly, he should be able to collect urine and feces simultaneously, which can contain one liter of the former and 500 grams (17.6 ounces) of the latter, including diarrhea.
The specification adds that it should be able to process up to 114 grams of menstrual blood per crew per day and “allow for easy cleaning and maintenance, with a delay of five minutes or less between uses”.
The system must also be able to store or dispose of the waste outside the vehicle.
During the Apollo missions, the urine expelled into space “froze in a shower of sparkling ice crystals”, poetically notes author Craig Nelson in his book “Rocket Men”. Astronauts have also left bags of trash on the surface of the moon, which NASA hopes to one day study the signs of life.
The deadline for the competition is August 17 and “bonus points will be awarded for designs that can capture vomit without the crew member putting their head down the toilet”.