NASA will send its brand-new $23 million toilet to the International Space Station tomorrow.
Once upon a time, a humble astronaut had to go where no human had gone before. Now, it’s commonplace to urinate and poop as they float around Earth’s orbit, and engineers are always looking for more innovative, effective ways to store and dispose waste.
The new loo will embark on a journey to the ISS tomorrow, September 29, aboard the Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo capsule as part of a regular supply mission.
Worth an eye-watering $23 million, the fresh toilet is named the Universal Waste Management System (UWMS), and it’s a poozy. It’s 65% smaller and 40% lighter than the toilet currently in use on the space station, and can support much larger crews.
During a press conference last week, as per Space.com, NASA Advanced Exploration Systems Logistics Reduction project manager Melissa McKinley explained:
The toilet was designed for exploration and it builds on previous spaceflight toilet design. The big key to the exploration piece of the design is looking to optimize mass volume and power usage, which are all very important components of a spacecraft design.
The ‘advanced bathroom set’ will be installed adjacent to the current toilet in Node 3 of the space station, with Expedition 63 crewmates Chris Cassidy and Ivan Vagner commanding the orbiting lab’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture the Cygnus spacecraft.
Once it’s arrived, those aboard the ISS will test how the toilet performs in the space station’s microgravity environment. It’s equipped with a 3D-printed titanium dual-fan separator – to help pull waste and urine down, in lieu of gravity – plus a urine funnel and seat to help female astronauts.
As per the International Business Times, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson earlier explained that while peeing in space is relatively straightforward, pooping is more difficult, often lumbered with a plate-sized hole. In times where accuracy hasn’t been achieved or a malfunction has taken place, some poop will inevitably float around.
It’s hoped that the UWMS will ‘bridge the gap between current lavatorial space technology and what humans will need to make extended visits to, say, Mars, in comfort’ or the moon.
During a press conference in May this year, Jim Broyan, a deputy program manager for Environmental Control and Life Support Technology and Crew Health and Performance at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, said that recycling waste is a prime objective.
He added: ‘Our future goals are to stabilize and dry the metabolic waste to make it microbially inactive and possibly reuse that water, reduce the amount of consumables for the potty, because it does really accumulate on a long mission, and we’re also looking at, can we reuse some of the waste?’
Happy pooping, team.
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International Business Times
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