Women Near Potty Parity in Space

Redesigned model to sit next to one that works better for men at space station
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 1, 2020 4:50 PM CDT
$23M Space Toilet Ready to be Shipped
Northrup Grumman's Antares rocket is poised for launch at the NASA Wallops test flight facility Thursday in Wallops Island, Va. The rocket is set to launch Thursday evening to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.   (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

NASA's first new space potty in decades—a $23 million titanium toilet better suited for women—is getting a not-so-dry run at the International Space Station before eventually flying to the moon. It's packed inside a cargo ship set to blast off late Thursday from Wallops Island, Virginia. Barely 100 pounds and just 28 inches tall, it’s roughly half as big as the two Russian-built toilets at the space station. It's more camper-size, to fit into the NASA Orion capsules that will carry astronauts to the moon in a few years. Station residents will test it out for a few months. If the shakedown goes well, the toilet will be open for regular business. With SpaceX now launching astronauts to the space station and Boeing less than a year from sending up its first crew, more toilets are needed, the AP reports. The new one will be in its own stall alongside the old one on the US side of the outpost.

The old toilets cater more toward men. To better accommodate women, NASA tilted the seat on the new toilet and made it taller. The new shape should help astronauts position themselves better for No. 2, said Johnson Space Center's Melissa McKinley, the project manager. "Cleaning up a mess is a big deal. We don’t want any misses or escapes," she said. Let's just say everything floats in weightlessness. As for No. 1, the funnels also have been redesigned. Women can use the elongated and scooped-out funnels to urinate while sitting on the commode to poop at the same time. Until now, it's been one or the other for female astronauts, McKinley noted. Like earlier space commodes, air suction, rather than water and gravity, removes the waste. Urine collected by the toilet will be routed into NASA's recycling system to produce water for drinking and cooking. Titanium and other tough alloys were chosen for the toilet to withstand all the acid in the urine pretreatment.

(More NASA stories.)

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