HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Artemis astronauts exploring the Moon will use the most advanced space systems of the 21st century – including some of the most basic home comforts, like a toilet. NASA is calling on the global community to help innovate space toilet concepts through the Lunar Loo Challenge.
The evolution of the space toilet began with the space shuttle, so astronauts living aboard the International Space Station use a toilet designed for long-duration missions in microgravity. Astronauts exploring on the Moon, however, will need a smaller, lighter, simpler toilet inside their lunar lander, because every ounce of mass on the lander is carefully allocated. For every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of mass, 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of propellant is needed to descend to the lunar surface and launch back to lunar orbit.
The Lunar Loo Challenge seeks novel design concepts for low-mass, compact toilets that can reduce the current state-of-the art toilet mass by more than half – from 54 kg to 31 kg – and reduce the volume by 70% – from 0.17 cubic meters to 0.12 cubic meters. For comparison, the standard toilet you might have in your house weighs 30-60 kg, but the complexity of operating in reduced gravity environments requires more components for a space toilet.
“Our astronauts accomplish amazing feats of science and space exploration. But at the end of the day, they’re still human. We need to provide them with the same necessities as here on Earth so they can continue to do their job,” said Mike Interbartolo, manager for the Lunar Loo Challenge out of NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) Crew Compartment Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Lunar toilet design concepts must allow astronauts to urinate and defecate in both lunar gravity and microgravity. Gravity on the Moon is approximately one sixth of Earth’s gravity. Microgravity is what is generally considered “zero-g” and is experienced as weightlessness.
The Technical Prize is open to anyone age 18 or older participating as an individual or as a team. The Junior Challenge is open to anyone under the age of 18, participating as an individual or as a team. Entrants 12 years old or younger will need to have a parent or guardian register to submit on their behalf.
Submissions will be evaluated based on proposed capabilities, technical maturity, safety, and overall innovation. The Lunar Loo Challenge has a total prize purse of $35,000 that will be shared among the top three designs. The top three participants in the junior category will each receive public recognition and an item of official NASA merchandise.
Getting back to the Moon by 2024 is an ambitious goal and NASA is already working on approaches to improve existing space toilets. The agency is also aware of the value in inviting ideas from the general public, knowing that they approach problems with a mindset different from traditional aerospace engineering.
“The global community of innovators provides valuable insight and expertise we might not have in-house,” said Steve Rader, deputy manager of the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL). “Challenges like this allow us to tap into that creative thinking and find unknown or undeveloped solutions.”
For more information about the challenge, and how to enter, visit:
NTL, part of the agency’s Prizes and Challenges program within the Space Technology Mission Directorate, supports the use of public competitions and crowdsourcing as tools to advance NASA research and development and other mission needs.
Learn more about opportunities to participate in your space program through NASA prizes and challenges, visit:
Artemis includes sending a suite of new science instruments and technology demonstrations to study the Moon, landing the first woman and next man on the lunar surface by 2024, and establishing a sustained presence by the end of the decade. The agency will leverage its Artemis experience and technologies to prepare for the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.