- NASA is offering up to $ 20,000 for its lunar bath designs prior to its Artemis missions to the Moon.
- The toilet must be compact, but it must also contain a large amount of debris, while being relatively quiet.
- The competition is open until August 17, so prepare your designs and be a part of poop history
Bathrooms are great, right? The modern toilet is an engineering marvel, but it relies heavily on gravity to do its own thing. That makes it special equipment destined for Earth, and it’s not really something that astronauts can have any use for. Urinating in zero gravity is a high-tech affair, but what about dropping a number two on Earth’s closest neighbor, the Moon?
NASA needs this question answered, so it is putting its money where it is and offering $ 20,000 for the best toilet design that will work not only in microgravity but also on the lunar surface. That’s a huge change to designing a Moon toilet, but it gets even better: Even if it doesn’t produce the winning design, there are still considerable rewards for winning second and third place, taking home $ 10,000 and $ 5,000 respectively.
The Moon is not completely devoid of gravity, of course, but its attraction is only about a sixth of what it is on Earth. You can still do your business and watch it fall to the ground (or, preferably, a bowl of some sort), but the entire “discharge” mechanism is something you’ll have to figure out on your own.
There are also other restrictions, including size. The toilet bowl cannot measure more than 4.2 cubic feet and must operate relatively quietly, with noise not exceeding 60 decibels. As for its capabilities, the toilet must be able to capture both faeces and urine at the same time. There are also capacity requirements, and the toilet must be able to pierce up to one liter of urine and up to 500 grams of stool before filling.
Artemis’s missions to the Moon will be very different from those of the Apollo program. Back then, human waste was not a big concern. Astronauts fired their collected urine into space from the command module and even left poop bags on the Moon’s surface. Having a proper toilet to use while spending time on the Moon is a huge improvement compared to it, but it’s up to you to design it.
The competition will be open until August 17, at which time the presentations will close and the evaluation will begin. It’s not a guarantee that NASA will use the exact design presented by the winning entry, but the space agency clearly hopes to get some inspiration for its own lunar toilet design, so it could still be part of the story. Even if it’s the moon poop story.