New toilet designed using astronaut feedback arrives on the space station

Humans have been living, working and conducting science experiments on the International Space Station for nearly 20 years.But even this feat of engin...

Posted: Oct 5, 2020 11:31 AM

Humans have been living, working and conducting science experiments on the International Space Station for nearly 20 years.

But even this feat of engineering needs upgrades sometimes, like a new toilet.

Among the 8,000 pounds of supplies arriving at the International Space Station Monday at 8 a.m. ET was a new space toilet. Officially called the Universal Waste Management System, it was designed using male and female astronaut feedback.

Northrop Grumman's Cygnus cargo spacecraft, which launched Friday night, also carried a new 360-degree virtual reality camera to be used on spacewalks and wealth of new experiments with objectives that could benefit our lives on Earth, as well as improve the quality of life for astronauts on long-term spaceflight missions.

Toilets in space

Removing gravity from the equation means that nothing functions in space the way it does on Earth -- toilets included.

"You don't realize how much you take a toilet for granted on Earth until you're limited to only two on the ISS and one of them breaks," said NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan during a panel hosted by the National Science Foundation on September 25.

While the existing toilets are reliable, the new design is more user-friendly and easier to maintain, Morgan said.

The new compact toilet includes a funnel and hose for urine and a seat for bowel movements. In the absence of gravity, air flow pulls these away from the body. The new design begins air flow automatically as soon as the lid is lifted on the toilet. This also helps control odor.

The new design is about 65% smaller and 40% lighter, with more efficient waste management and storage. This will come in handy as more crew members come to stay on the space station with the addition of the Commercial Crew Program, which can carry more astronauts in a single launch.

Astronaut feedback from using the existing toilets on the space station went into this new design, which is more ergonomic, requires less cleanup, is easier to maintain, has parts that are durable and is resistant to corrosion.

The funnel and seat of this design can also be used simultaneously, which was incorporated after feedback from female astronauts.

"The toilet is a great example of including all the feedback from various crewmembers," Meir said. "This better accounts for those, much easier for everyone to use up there."

The existing toilet was designed some time ago when there were few, if any, female astronauts staying on the space station. This design now better accounts for anatomical differences between men and women, Meir said.

Since water is a key factor of the life support systems on the space station, as well as those that will be used in future exploration of the moon and Mars, the astronauts' urine does not go to waste.

"We recycle about 90% of all water-based liquids on the space station, including urine and sweat," Meir said in a separate statement. "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 ISS, today's coffee is tomorrow's coffee!"

The toilet's urine transfer system will pretreat the urine and feed it into a regenerative system that recycles the water.

A second toilet like this will be installed in the Orion spacecraft to be used for the Artemis II flight test, which will send astronauts on a 10-day mission beyond the moon and back in 2023.

Huntsville/Redstone
Cloudy
45° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 39°
Muscle Shoals
Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 39°
Huntsville/Madison
Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 39°
Decatur
Cloudy
45° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 39°
Fort Payne
Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 37°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 414583

Reported Deaths: 5945
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson60842887
Mobile29590538
Madison26466183
Tuscaloosa20537267
Montgomery18562304
Shelby18181112
Baldwin15841177
Lee1212097
Morgan12002112
Etowah11488142
Calhoun10863197
Marshall10048106
Houston8405123
Cullman792294
Limestone785073
Elmore7670101
DeKalb757282
St. Clair7417120
Lauderdale740282
Talladega6036108
Walker5834176
Jackson571937
Colbert522270
Blount521980
Autauga507555
Coffee431456
Dale388278
Franklin362145
Chilton332965
Covington325567
Russell318910
Escambia309842
Dallas297988
Chambers275769
Clarke272933
Tallapoosa2591107
Pike245829
Lawrence239345
Marion238649
Winston222535
Bibb211347
Geneva196331
Marengo196329
Pickens195331
Hale172542
Barbour169636
Butler166958
Fayette164026
Cherokee158330
Henry149219
Monroe143617
Randolph137635
Washington135426
Clay124446
Crenshaw117444
Lamar116819
Cleburne115123
Macon111935
Lowndes107935
Wilcox99921
Bullock97128
Perry95019
Conecuh92820
Sumter89126
Greene75123
Coosa59814
Choctaw50824
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 670482

Reported Deaths: 8232
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby747611088
Davidson69030648
Knox37822389
Hamilton33776322
Rutherford32471281
Unassigned22060125
Williamson20903138
Sumner17850228
Out of TN1566277
Wilson14171152
Montgomery13874145
Sullivan12293207
Washington11674191
Blount11537120
Maury10746120
Bradley1050091
Sevier10243103
Putnam9730131
Madison8949175
Robertson743385
Hamblen6779106
Anderson6623101
Greene6459108
Tipton605663
Gibson5534109
Coffee551381
Dickson524777
Cumberland523571
Bedford520785
Roane507677
Carter5017108
Lawrence500169
McMinn498572
Warren487553
Loudon481549
Dyer466481
Jefferson460975
Monroe442062
Hawkins433367
Franklin399956
Obion393974
Fayette385551
Rhea371755
Lincoln371044
Cocke336655
Weakley336048
Marshall333136
Cheatham328528
Henderson328253
Giles315071
Campbell314639
Hardeman304351
White304342
Carroll300159
Hardin293546
Lauderdale288731
Macon282850
Wayne258219
Henry253957
Overton246942
DeKalb237340
Haywood234644
McNairy231642
Smith228427
Trousdale227814
Marion220031
Scott219731
Hickman218134
Fentress208430
Grainger202134
Claiborne198721
Johnson194830
Morgan183613
Crockett178938
Bledsoe171110
Chester169836
Unicoi162843
Cannon153419
Lake153019
Decatur145124
Grundy137420
Polk137317
Union136121
Sequatchie132518
Humphreys129817
Benton129634
Lewis126020
Meigs110716
Stewart103020
Jackson102520
Perry93224
Houston92522
Clay90626
Moore7858
Pickett66119
Van Buren6397
Hancock3936

Community Events