Alright, you got me! Astronauts never had to poop their pants on the moon. But the Apollo crew did have to use a “fecal bag” to do their business, and 50 years later, NASA needs some help designing a new, respectable “Lunar Loo.”
You heard me right. NASA is launching its “Lunar Loo Challenge,” a gritty, heart-pounding competition to design the best toilet for 2024’s Artemis moon mission! Astronauts will spend a few days space and nearly six days on the lunar surface, so they gotta go somewhere. Nobody can hold it in that long!
Why doesn’t NASA just take one of the fancy-pants toilets from the International Space Station? Well, the Lunar Loo needs to fit in a small lander. It also needs to work in the weightlessness of space and on the surface of the moon, which has a decent gravitational pull. Sadly, the ISS toilets aren’t very portable and they don’t work in gravity (the ISS experiences micro-gravity, but you get what I mean).
Now, I know that you already have a super cool space toilet design, but NASA needs the Lunar Loo to follow a set of specifications. It needs to be a certain size, it can’t use up too much electricity, and it can’t be too loud—otherwise the aliens might catch our astronauts with their pants down.
Your space toilet also needs to accommodate both sexes, as Artemis is the first mission to bring a woman to the moon. NASA says that the Loo should collect up to 500 grams of poop per “deification,” or an entire liter of urine per use. If I were an astronaut, I would simply not pee an entire liter in one go. Anyway, NASA also wants your Lunar Loo design to work with period blood, and it needs to accommodate for messy ejections such as vomit or diarrhea.
Signups for the Lunar Loo Challenge start today and end on August 17th, 2020. The winner gets $35,000 in prizes and the knowledge that they will go down in history forever and ever. NASA is also running a “junior” version of the competition for kids, with the chance to win a certificate and a piece of NASA merchandise.