NASA recently launched a new $23 million space toilet to the ISS, which is supposed to arrive by Monday. The toilet was packed inside a cargo ship( robotic Cygnus spacecraft) that blasted off last Friday (2nd October) evening from Wallop island, Virginia.
Apparently, the launch was scheduled to take place last Tuesday (29th September) but it was delayed due to some inappropriate weather conditions. An attempted launch on Thursday was aborted two minutes before liftoff due to a technical glitch.
NASA spent a lot of time and energy on making the seat female-friendly. The space toilets use airflow to pull urine and faeces away from the body and into proper receptacles.
The seats have a specially shaped funnel for urine and a seat for bowel movements which can be used simultaneously. It uses a vacuum system to suck waste away from the body in a zero-gravity environment. For privacy, the toilet is located inside a cubicle. The toilet clearly represents an upgrade on the currently used facilities in the US part of ISS. The universal waste management system (UWMS) further says that it will help astronauts “boldly go” during deep space missions.
The UWMS seat may look uncomfortably small and pointy but it’s appropriate for that environment, it provides ideal body contact to make sure everything goes where it should. To make it more comfortable and keep them from floating away, there are foot restraint and handles. The toilets can also process and recycle urine as drinking water for the astronauts .
The spacecraft is hauling around 3458 kgs of cargo, carrying various scientific experiments and equipment to space –
- The radish growing experiment which aims to expand our knowledge of food in space, this way the researchers will be able to study in detail about the soil conditions and optimize the food growth.
- A skincare serum, for the astronauts in a product commercial. This is a part of NASA’s efforts so as to engage more with commercial activities in low earth orbit.
- A VR camera, to give people a more natural experience of what it is like in outer space.
NASA is doing whatever they can to further improve the waste management techniques to give faecal matter the same treatment as other important tasks.