Photo: Herox

NASA Will Pay $20,000 to Anyone Who Can Design a Revolutionary Space Toilet

News Astronomy
by Eben Diskin Jun 29, 2020

You might have some DIY skills but may not be confident enough to put those skills to work for NASA. Well, NASA is soliciting ideas from the general public for a new space product — but it’s probably not what you’d expect. The US is preparing to launch astronauts to the moon in 2024, and NASA wants to make the journey as comfortable as possible. That means upgrading the bathroom situation, which hasn’t got a makeover in quite some time.

Previously, astronauts used diapers, holes in the wall, and advanced funnel systems. In the International Space Station, astronauts still bag their poop. As you can imagine, those options are less than appealing.

Mike Interbartolo, part of NASA’s lunar lander engineering team, told Business Insider, “We need a toilet that needs to work for seven days on the surface of the moon, as well as during that transit time to and from the moon.”

Photo: Herox

The space agency is launching a Lunar Loo contest, crowdsourcing ideas for improving the astronauts’ bathroom experience, and the winner gets $20,000. The toilet design must function both in the microgravity of space and lunar gravity, and be usable for all astronauts regardless of gender.

You’d think that rocket scientists would be able to design a toilet, but apparently the task is more complicated than it appears.

According to Interbartolo, “We want that different perspective over the next couple months of this challenge to really kind of open our eyes to the unknown unknowns that, since we’re so tightly focused on what a space toilet is, maybe there are different things that we’re not aware of out there.”

The complete guidelines for the contest are available on HeroX. The deadline to submit designs is August 17 at 5:00 PM ET. First place will be awarded $20,000, second place $10,000, and third place $5,000.

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