Nasa’s new space toilet makes it easier for women astronauts to go to the bathroom

  • A new type of toilet will be heading to the ISS in September for a trial run
  • Smaller and self-contained, the new design will hopefully make it more comfortable for crew and easier to fix and replace 
  • It should also be more comfortable for female astronauts


Going into space isn’t as glamorous as you might think – especially when you think about the bathroom situation. 

For decades astronauts have regaled the public with stories of floating turds and leaky toilets, and the unpleasantness of having your urine and faeces vacuumed up into plastic bags. 

But a new $23 million toilet might just help to do a number two in space a little easier. 

READ: Clots in space: How an astronaut's blocked vein brought medical insight

New toilet design

The new Universal Waste Management System (UWS) from Nasa will be sent up to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year to go on a trial run before it will be installed on the Orion for its lunar flyby flight in 2023. 

Space toilet

UWMS volumetic mockup with urine storage tanks. (Photo: Nasa)

More compact and self-contained, the UWS will be easier to install and replace in not just the ISS, but for any future space missions and on any vehicle. 

It’s also supposedly more comfortable for astronauts and easier to use, especially for women according to the project’s team leader Melissa McKinley. 

She told Wired that the new design accounts for the fact that women tend to urinate and defecate at the same time, and the new attachments make room for that. 

The new toilet was also sent to ISS in anticipation of bigger crews once commercial space flight becomes more frequent.

READ: Learning to live on Mars

Recycling urine

But the most important feature of the toilet is that it can pretreat urine before it goes into the station’s wider system, making it more effective for recycling into the water system. 

This is especially crucial for long-term space trips, like a mission to Mars, when resource recycling will be crucial to the survival of the crew.

ISS’s current toilet system is a lot clunkier, forming an integral part of the station and can be difficult to fix once a problem arises. 

SEE: Sperm seems to survive just fine in space, study shows

Watch how it works in the video below:

At least it’s better than what the very first astronauts had to do. They just answered the call of nature in their suits. 

Image credit: Pixabay

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