The US space agency will pay up to $20,000 to anyone who can design a better toilet for their next Moon mission, scheduled for 2024 under the Artemis program.
NASA has already launched the challenge to choose the design of what will be its next lunar toilet. The challenge rules were published on HeroX, a digital platform on which organizations can use crowdsourcing to find innovative solutions.
Although the International Space Station already has special bathrooms for astronauts, NASA’s new mission to the Moon will require a special project that works in lunar gravity, about one-sixth that of Earth.
NASA is looking for ideas for creating a next-generation device that is smaller, but equally efficient and capable of working both in micro-gravity and in lunar gravity.
With this challenge, they are looking for new state-of-the-art toilets with a total weight reduced by almost half, from 54 to 31 kilograms (119 to 68 pounds), and a volume reduced by 70%, from 0.17 to 0.12 cubic meters.
While a typical toilet weighs between 30 to 60 kilograms (66 to 132 pounds), the complexity of operating in low-gravity environments requires more components, making space toilets heavier.
The space agency offers three prizes of $20,000, $10,000, and $5,000, respectively, for the best ideas. The deadline for submitting projects ends on August 17th and the final winner will be announced on September 30th.
NASA intends to gather ideas from the general public, who have a different and more distant view of traditional aerospace engineering.