NASA Is Sending a $23 Million Toilet to Space — and It's Good News for Female Astronauts
Female astronauts will now have an easier time going to the bathroom in space, thanks to a $23 million new toilet design that NASA is preparing to launch to the International Space Station.
The space agency calls it the Universal Waste Management System, and according to a press release, the toilet — which is 65% smaller and 40% lighter than the space station’s current toilet — has been designed specifically based on feedback from astronauts.
The titanium toilet was supposed to take off for the ISS on Thursday night from Wallops Island, Virginia, but the launch was aborted just two minutes before lift off, and Northrop Grumman has since rescheduled it for Friday night, according to the Associated Press, which also reported the hefty price tag.
Because there’s no gravity in space, the toilets use air flow to pull urine and feces away from the body and into the proper receptacles. The former uses a specially shaped funnel and hose, while the latter uses the seat.
Thanks to the new design — which also includes foot restraints and handholds instead of thigh straps — the funnel and seat can now be used simultaneously for the first time, “reflecting feedback from female astronauts,” the release said.
“The UWMS seat may look uncomfortably small and pointy, but in microgravity it’s ideal. It provides ideal body contact to make sure everything goes where it should,” the release said.
The new toilet will also collect and reroute urine into a regenerative system, which will recycle the water to use again.
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“We recycle about 90% of all water-based liquids on the space station, including urine and sweat,” astronaut Jessica Meir said in the release. “What we try to do aboard the space station is mimic elements of Earth’s natural water cycle to reclaim water from the air. And when it comes to our urine on ISS, today’s coffee is tomorrow’s coffee!”
After the first toilet heads to the ISS, another unit will be installed in Orion for the Artemis II flight test, according to NASA.
The AP reported that the toilet is the first time NASA has ordered a new one since the early 1990s.