There are a few things you never see in movies that are about space travel. One of those is how exactly astronauts go to the bathroom. Imagine how astronauts that took part in the Apollo moon missions went to the bathroom while they were in orbit and on the surface of the moon. Astronauts aboard the ISS have a complicated toilet system that captures human waste. NASA is set to hold a contest to build a better toilet for astronauts participating in the future Artemis mission to the moon.
NASA hopes to launch Artemis by 2024. The competition is called the Lunar Loo Challenge, and the contest is inviting design entries from people around the globe with the opportunity to win $35,000. Interestingly, the ISS is set to get a new toilet this year called the Universal Waste Management System. While there is a new toilet design available at the space agency, it’s designed for the microgravity of space and not the heavier lunar gravity of the moon.
The new toilet will be designed to be used on the surface of the moon while a smaller version will be designed for installation on the lunar lander. Core components of the challenge NASA is inviting the public to participate in include figuring out how to capture sewage and smells in both microgravity and on the moon. The $35,000 prize purse will be distributed to three winners.
NASA hopes that the contest will attract “radically new and different approaches to the problem of human waste capture and containment.” Children can enter the competition as well and will receive non-cash prizes. Teams wanting to participate in the challenge have until August 17 to submit plans for their lunar loo.
Entries submitted will be evaluated on quality, feasibility, and the likelihood that the design can be developed within the next 2 to 3 years, and their innovation. Designs must be able to contain “urine, feces (accommodating simultaneous urination and defecation), diarrhea, vomit, [and] menses.” Those wishing to enter the contest can do so here.