NASA’s very expensive new deep space porta-potty

As NASA works on its plans to push further and further into the unknown with its manned space flights, it must also plan more mundane matters – such as how its intrepid astronauts will boldly go … to the loo.

No matter how far we roam – on land, in space, or on foam – the reality is that our daily constitutional is a basic necessity of life.

With this in mind, the US space agency is currently installing a spanking new toilet system on the International Space Station (ISS), with the aim of letting its astronauts in low Earth orbit (a mere 400km above earth) test it out before the next batch of space explorers head to the moon and beyond.

It’s an expensive undertaking

And if you think that hiring a few portable loos for the annual school fete is an expensive affair, try this for size: NASA’s latest porta-potty took six years to develop and cost a cool $23-million (R373-million).

NASA’s very expensive new space toilet. Photo credit: NASA

No doubt the accountants among you will be reaching for a calculator to work out an approximate cost-per-flush.

But before you’re scandalised at the expense, NASA urges us to remember that the eye-watering cost actually covered two ‘test’ toilets; one for the ISS and one for the first Artemis 2 mission to the moon, scheduled for a few years’ time.

Oh, so it’s only $11.5-million per toilet, then? Cheap at the price…

More complicated than on Earth

The next important point is that a poo in a space loo is far more complicated than down here on mother Earth.

Because NASA’s next deep-space capsule, named Orion, is relatively small, the space agency’s engineers designed a camper-sized toilet that is roughly 65% smaller and 40% lighter than the ones currently in use. It is also more energy efficient.

“Space and power are at a premium on a spacecraft,” NASA’s Melissa McKinley explained. “[So] you can imagine that optimising [the toilet] can help out in lots of ways.”

In space, everything will float

And, because there’s no gravity in a spacecraft, everything tends to float. So the number ones and number twos produced by astronauts need to be pulled into the toilet or end up drifting around the craft.

The system for doing a number one. Photo credit: NASA

To do a number one, astronauts use a funnel attached to a hose that uses a fan to pull the urine into a tank. For a number two, the crew member sits over a tank that relies on the same fan to pull their business into a collection bag.

And because there are far more female crew members than in years gone by, it was also important to take this into account.

Planning for more female crew

Female crew members provided input that helped redesign the shape and length of the funnel, its position next to the toilet, as well as the shape of the seat, the space agency said.

It all sounds a bit complicated and you’re tempted to wonder if a good old space ‘long drop’ wouldn’t have done the trick.

But apparently it’s a vast improvement on the early space missions, when astronauts essentially taped a bag to their bottoms in order to do what comes naturally. Protection Status

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *