New Space Toilet


Anna Wright

     As a nerd with an obsession with all things Sci-Fi, I’ve watched my fair share of movies set in space, but there’s one thing regarding spaceships that I never considered: how do astronauts use the bathroom? Fortunately for the astronauts, NASA took the time to think about this. Recently they created a new toilet, the Universal Waste Management System (UWMS), worth around 23 million dollars, and it’s not the average white porcelain staple we’re all used to. 

     The new and improved space toilet was developed based on not only constructive feedback but also on the growing number of female astronauts. In an article celebrating International Women’s Day, NASA announced, “As of March 2020, 65 women have flown in space. Of these, 38 have visited the International Space Station (ISS) as long-duration expedition crewmembers, as visitors on Space Shuttle assembly flights, or as Space Flight Participants on short-duration Soyuz missions.” One of the features added to the toilet is the ability to simultaneously use the seat and the funnel; such design better suits the females aboard and reflects their growing contribution to space exploration.

     In addition to the seat-funnel duo, NASA has made further improvements to the age-old privy. The brilliant minds assigned to toilet duty managed to reduce the size by 65 percent and the weight by 40 percent. While compacting the everyday item might have been an obstacle, there were other more significant issues at hand, namely the gravity—or lack thereof. Their solution was to create a space bidet. Well, not really a bidet. Instead of water, the new toilet releases an automatic flow of air that sucks the urine away from the body and into the proper containment. To keep the astronauts from floating away, foot restraints and handholds were also added. The former design included thigh straps that were removed due to uncomfortably. Another challenge faced while on a spaceship is the shortage of resources; it’s not exactly easy or cheap to constantly export water into space. Therefore new water is a valuable commodity. Yesterday’s water, on the other hand, is much easier to come by. NASA scientists and engineers have developed a regenerative system that recycles liquids, including urine and sweat. This innovative technology will be integral on future missions, such as potential expeditions to Mars, when resources are especially tight. 

     With funnels, air vacuums, and restraints, what’s not to love about “going” in zero-G.

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