Houston, we have a problem. And let’s just say, it’s a special kind of problem.
NASA needs a moon toilet — that’s right, a moon toilet.
Not only that, but they are willing to pay you a reward of US$20,000 if you can design one that works efficiently.
According to a report in The Indian Express, NASA has called out the inventors all over the world to develop a toilet that can work on future lunar lander spacecraft and not just in microgravity.
There’s a reward for the second-best and third-best invention as well, as they will win US$10,000 and US$5,000 respectively.
“This challenge hopes to attract radically new and different approaches to the problem of human waste capture and containment,” NASA’s challenge specified in an overview, the report said.
The winning toilet design of the NASA challenge will be used for their program Artemis which plans to land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024.
The existing toilets designed for space can only be used in microgravity and not on the moon. Moon’s gravitation force is about a one-sixth when compared to Earth, the report said.
In an attempt to encourage inventions from the younger lot, they have also announced a prize for the junior category as well.
Innovators under 18 years of age will be eligible for the challenge. The top three participants from the junior category will receive an item of official NASA-logoed merchandise each along with public recognition, the report said.
There are a few rules in place for the challenge to make the next-gen moon toilet:
- It should not occupy any more than 4.2 cubic feet in size.
- It should operate with noise levels below than 60 decibels, equivalent of an air conditioning unit at 100 feet.
- It should be able to collect a litre of urine and 500 grams of feces simultaneously making it usable in case any astronaut suffers from diarrhea.
- As the Artemis program aims at putting the first woman on the moon, the moon toilet should be able to deal with up to 114 grams of menstrual blood.
- There should be less than five-minute turnaround time between two uses along with the ability to store or throw the waste outside.