NASA can send astronauts to the moon, but making it easy for them to do their business once they get there is a different story. To crack the problem of going to the bathroom in lunar gravity, the space agency is asking for the public's help.
As Travel + Leisure reports, the purpose of the Lunar Loo Challenge is to build a better space toilet in time for NASA's return to the moon on 2024. "While astronauts are in the cabin and out of their spacesuits, they will need a toilet that has all the same capabilities as ones here on Earth," the contest description reads. "NASA is calling on the global community for their novel design concepts for compact toilets that can operate in both microgravity and lunar gravity."
Astronauts already use special toilets in space, but these systems are designed for microgravity, not gravity on the moon. The new type of space toilet should be more efficient, more compact, and more versatile than the facilities currently used on the International Space Station. NASA's Human Landing System Program will select three winning designs in the technical category, awarding $20,000 to first place, $10,000 to second place, and $5000 to third. Contestants younger than 18 can also submit designs in the junior category for a chance to win a certificate and official NASA merchandise.
The challenge of urinating and defecating in space is as old as space travel itself. During NASA's 1969 Apollo 10 mission, a piece of fecal matter was spotted floating through the spacecraft after escaping its poop bag (none of the astronauts on board claimed ownership of the loose turd). Astronauts no longer rely solely on bags to catch their waste, but the tiny, vacuum-powered toilets they strap themselves to today are only slightly more tolerable. This aspect of space travel is one of several NASA hopes to improve when it sends astronauts to the moon for the first time in 50 years later this decade.
[h/t Travel + Leisure]