NASA will send new toilets to the International Space Station (ISS). Astronauts must test them there before the design is used on flights to the Moon and Mars.
The toilet system costs US $23 million. Officially known as the Universal Waste Management System (UWMS), it is 65% smaller and 40% lighter than the toilet currently in use on the space station. At the same time, the device can serve larger crews. The toilet will be delivered to the space station aboard the Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo capsule on September 29.
While on the space station, the astronauts will test how the new toilet works in microgravity. The system will be installed next to an existing toilet in the space station’s 3rd node, NASA Advanced Exploration Systems project manager Melissa McKinley said at a press conference.
They plan to use this modification of the toilet for preparation for long flights. The engineers added that they were using “new approaches to waste disposal and some of the challenges that experts foresee in future flights.” According to them, collecting and storing waste will become one of the main problems during the flight, since human waste is full of microbes.
The toilet, which is now used in the American section of the ISS, was developed back in the 90s. Astronauts have already complained several times about “sensitivity to the astronaut’s seating position, which could lead to accidental contamination of the collection hardware with feces.” The old toilet has also been criticized for “poor grip and difficulty in use” (from a review by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics). The new toilet has solved these problems.
The new system will be easier to use and will help facilitate the work of mixed-gender groups. In the toilet, urine is initially processed so that it can then be safely processed using the spacecraft’s recirculation systems. The shape and volume of the seat have also been changed in the new toilet.