NASA has launched an advanced toilet for the International Space Station (ISS) to test out the system before using it in the future Mars and Moon missions. The $23 million space toilet, called Universal Waste Management System (UWMS), is smaller, more comfortable, and supports a large crew as NASA’s Commercial Crew Program sends more astronauts to the station. NASA’s advanced space toilet left Earth on 2 October.
NASA’s advanced toilet system is 65 percent smaller and 40 percent lighter than the toilet currently used. It will also install another UWMS unit in Orion spacecraft for the astronauts that go on a 10-day mission to the moon.
We recycle about 90 percent of all water-based liquids on the space station, including urine and sweat. What we try to do aboard the space station is mimic elements of Earth’s natural water cycle to reclaim water from the air. And when it comes to our urine on the ISS, today’s coffee is tomorrow’s coffee! – said Jessica Meir, Nasa Astronaut
The UWMS will feed pre-treat urine into a regenerative system, which recycles the water for further use. At the same time, for a shorter duration mission, the UWMS will not be pre-treated with chemicals and kept for disposal. The system will be able to recycle more urine, fit for consumption. In addition to this, the UWMS is based on ergonomic design requiring less clean up and maintenance time, corrosion-resistant, durable parts to reduce the likelihood of maintenance outside of the set schedule.
NASA’s advanced toilet is also better suited for women as compared to old toilets. The new shape provides a tilted seat to make it taller and better accommodate female astronauts.
Lack of gravity has always remained one of the most challenging aspects for the astronauts. Airflow is used to pull the urine and feces away from the body and into the proper receptacles. However, now the new feature in UWMS will automatically start the airflow when the toilet lid is lifted and will also help to control the odor.
The UWMS’s central design is universal and can be easily integrated into different spacecraft and life support systems. The space station is the only in-space station for the trial purpose to validate long-term life support and recycling systems.
NASA is a center of human exploration, technology, and science. With its history of unveiling mysteries of the universe, NASA engineers have also contributed to building technologies with a positive economic impact on health & medicine, transportation, public safety, consumer products, computer technologies, environment & agriculture resources, and industrial activity. NASA’s goal is to reach 98 percent recycling rates before the first human missions aboard a proposed Mars transport vehicle.