NASA Lunar Loo challenge
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Credit: NASA

NASA is crowdsourcing designs for the space-proof toilet we'll use on the moon

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Jun 26, 2020

Next time astronauts land on the Moon, they will have all sorts of advances the crew of Apollo 11 never dreamed of. That includes a specialized toilet.

Wherever there are humans, there need to be bathrooms. NASA’s Lunar Loo Challenge in partnership with HeroX is looking for brains out there who can design a compact toilet that not only gets through microgravity (which already exists on the ISS) but can do anything your throne here on Earth can, except on the Moon. Space toilets that already exist aren’t equipped to handle lunar gravity. This would be the first of its kind.

“NASA’s Human Landing System Program is looking for a next-generation device that is smaller, more efficient, and capable of working in both microgravity and lunar gravity,” the NASA website says.

Astronauts on the Artemis lunar landers will have to go sometimes. This toilet is meant for use inside the cabin when they aren’t in all their gear, so at least it doesn't have to accommodate an entire spacesuit. The astronauts will be living in the pressurized crew cabin part of the lander for at least a week (on early missions). What it does have to accommodate is an environment with a sixth of Earth’s gravity. Lunar surface gravity isn’t the nearly total absence of gravity you find on the ISS, but it is only a fraction of what holds us down on the home planet because the Moon has so much less mass.

To give you an idea, any of the Apollo astronauts, fully suited up, would have weighed about 500 pounds on Earth if you included their average body weight and that monster of a suit. They were only carrying around 80 pounds, suit and all, on the Moon.

NASA previously joined forces with commercial partners Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX to create the Human Landing System Program, which is the final transport mode for astronauts landing on the lunar surface. The HLS is in the process of being developed right now. It just needs a toilet.

By the way, as if the incentive of your invention landing on the Moon isn’t enough, the winner will receive $35,000 and may have their design adapted for use on the Artemis landers. You have until August 17 to submit your concept.

Who knows when or where might even come up with some brilliant idea — maybe even on an actual toilet?

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