NASA Will Award You Up to $20,000 for Designing a Toilet That Works on the Moon

1971yes/iStock via Getty Images
1971yes/iStock via Getty Images

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]

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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How Do Astronauts Vote From Space?

Astronaut Kate Rubins casts her ballot from space.
Astronaut Kate Rubins casts her ballot from space.
NASA

Earlier this week, NASA announced that astronaut Kate Rubins had officially cast her vote from a makeshift voting booth aboard the International Space Station. As much as we’d like to believe her ballot came back to Earth in a tiny rocket, the actual transmission was much more mundane. Basically, it got sent to her county clerk as a PDF.

As NASA explains, voting from space begins the same way as voting abroad. Astronauts, like military members and other American citizens living overseas, must first submit a Federal Postcard Application (FPCA) to request an absentee ballot. Once approved, they can blast off knowing that their ballot will soon follow.

After the astronaut’s county clerk completes a practice round with folks at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, they can start the real voting process. The astronaut will then receive two electronic documents: a password-protected ballot sent by the Space Center’s mission control center, and an email with the password sent by the county clerk. The astronaut then “downlinks” (sends via satellite signal) their filled-out ballot back to the Space Center attendants, who forward it to the county clerk. Since the clerk needs a password to open the ballot, they’re the only other person who sees the astronaut’s responses. Then, as NPR reports, they copy the votes onto a regular paper ballot and submit it with the rest of them.

Though Americans have been visiting space for more than half a century, the early jaunts weren’t long enough to necessitate setting up a voting system from orbit. That changed in 1996, when John Blaha missed out on voting in the general election because his spaceflight to Russia’s space station Mir began in September—before absentee voters received their ballots—and he didn’t return until January 1997. So, as The Washington Post reports, NASA officials collaborated with Texas government officials to pass a law allowing astronauts to cast their ballots from space. In the fall of 1997, David Wolf became the first astronaut to submit his vote from a space station. The law is specific to Texas because most active astronauts reside there, but NASA has said that the process can be done from other states if need be.