Written by Uthara Menon, a grade 3 student.
Mankind has been visiting space since 1961, and slowly but surely, we have made more and more developments in space to suit the needs of humans.
Think about this: We take simple things, like using the toilet for granted here on earth, but have you ever wondered how astronauts use the toilet in space? Well, if your guess is a space toilet, then you are correct.
In 1970, NASA launched the Skylab, the first spacecraft with a machine loosely resembling a toilet.
What is a space toilet?
A space toilet is a toilet that astronauts use in a weightless environment in space. In a situation where there is a lack of weight (gravity), the collection and detainment of liquid and solid waste are directed by airflow. If you didn’t get what that meant, it means that they use the flow of air to pull the waste down from the body.
How does the space toilet work? What are the gadgets used?
Astronauts need a few gadgets in space to use the toilet.
One of these is the urine funnel. It is a pipe-like object at the bottom, with a cone-like shape at the top, similar to a funnel. The other gadget, the toilet seat, from the top, looks quite similar to a regular one here on earth. It has three lids. Most astronauts prefer using the third lid as the first and second are quite weightless. The astronauts are fastened to the seat so that they do not float away, in the absence of gravity! Below is the solid waste storage. There are special plastic-like bags that go to the very last inch of the toilet seat. When astronauts finish, they push the bag down into the solid waste container and a fresh bag is used again. The toilet has a door so that astronauts have a little privacy
So, that’s how it works, but the big question is what is done with the waste?
The solid waste is vacuum dried, sent to earth or burned. Meanwhile, the liquid waste is recycled into fresh drinking water.
Finally, after understanding all about the space toilet, what are the features of NASA’s new space toilet?
The new space toilet was launched from Earth on October 5th 2020. The launch was named after the Indian American astronaut, Kalpana Chawla. The new toilet is much smaller and more comfortable for astronauts. It has more inclusivity (it is more user-friendly for women astronauts) and is automatic and compact.
This toilet took 6 years and 23 million dollars to develop and design. Made of high-quality Titanium, it is part of the Universal Waste Management System. If things go as planned, this new toilet will be equipped on future missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
We’re sure the Astronauts are thankful to NASA for making the impossible possible!