Since NASA was founded, designing the perfect space toilet has been a work in progress. Things we take for granted in bathrooms on Earth (namely, gravity) are missing from the International Space Station, so designers have had to come up with creative workarounds. As CNET reports, NASA has launched its latest innovation in space toilet technology: a commode that better accommodates female astronauts.
After taking off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, in a cargo ship on October 2, the new toilet arrived at the International Space Station on October 5. The loo is sleeker and lighter than the two existing toilets at the ISS, weighing just 100 pounds and measuring 28 inches tall. But the biggest improvement involves a reconfiguration of the seat.
The seat of the new toilet is angled slightly downward, which should make it more accommodating to astronauts using it for No.1 as well as No.2. The steeper angle, combined with a new seat shape and funnel design, are meant to keep urine in the toilet and out of the rest of the space station. Loose waste isn't easy to clean up in space, as astronauts on NASA’s Apollo 10 mission discovered in 1969 when a mystery poop was spotted floating around the spacecraft. Like all space toilets, this new toilet also uses vacuum suction to counteract the effects of microgravity.
The International Space Station is just the first stop on the new space toilet's journey. After going through a trial run at the ISS for a few months, the technology may be used on future lunar missions, which require even smaller toilets than what astronauts are used to.