Even astronauts need a toilet and that’s probably why NASA is offering a total of $35,000 in prize money for anyone who can successfully design a toilet that will work properly on the moon.
But it’s not as easy as setting up your regular old bowl inside a spacecraft. NASA has created specific guidelines and features which the moon toilet should be able to fulfill. Since gravity on the moon is about one-sixth of the gravity on earth, the design should be able to show that the toilet will work in both the microgravity of space (while traveling) and on the moon, itself.
While there are present designs for a space toilet, NASA wants these new designs to be smaller, lighter, and functional in lunar gravity. With that in mind, the toilets should be less than 15Kg, have a volume of no greater than 0.12 cubic meters, consume less than 70 watts of power, operate not louder than 60db, and accommodate persons ranging from 58 – 77 inches tall, weighing between 107 to 290lbs.
In terms of function, the design should be able to capture “all the functionality of a toilet on Earth.” This includes the ability to accommodate different types of wastes simultaneously, allow for easy cleaning and maintenance with ideally a 5-minute turnaround time between uses, and allow for the transfer of the collected waste to storage or disposal outside of the aircraft.
NASA also goes as far into detailing how many grams of urine and feces should the toilet be able to support as well as adding “bonus points” for designs that can “capture vomit without requiring the crew member to put his/her head in the toilet.”
The Lunar Loo challenge is in line with NASA’s plans to send astronauts back to the moon by 2024. This mission will include the first female astronaut to travel to the moon which means designs should also be able to accommodate both male and female.
The Lunar Loo challenge has two categories: Technical and Junior. The deadline for submissions for both categories will be on August 17th, 2020, with the winners to be announced on September 30th for Technical and August 17th for Junior.
Only the Technical category will offer cash prizes. First place will be awarded $20,000, second place $10,000 and third place will be awarded $5000.
Winners of the Junior category will be offered certificates, public recognition from NASA and HeroX, official NASA-logoed merchandise, and a “mystery prize.”