NASA to award $20,000 as prize money for best Lunar Loo concept design

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A functioning toilet might not be the first thing that comes to mind when discussing the next Lunar mission, but it is an essential requirement either way. During the first mission to the moon the astronauts were essentially wearing diapers as it is near impossible to do your business in zero gravity. The development of excretion management went from being, “a plastic bag which was taped to the buttocks to capture faeces,” to fan-based suction systems.

“Although space toilets already exist and are in use (at the International Space Station, for example), they are designed for microgravity only. NASA’s Human Landing System Program is looking for a next-generation device that is smaller, more efficient, and capable of working in both microgravity and lunar gravity...” reads a description of this contest on the official NASA website.

Inside the space stations, the requirement of a toilet that could provide all the functions of one present on Earth is essential. To facilitate this, NASA is crowdsourcing ideas that can be implemented in place of the suction fan-based toilets. The Lunar Loo contest is for designs than that can function is one-sixth of the gravity present on Earth.

The requirements for design submissions are that it should have the capacity to function for 7 days including transit and should have the capacity to collect about a litre of urine and 500 grams of faeces simultaneously. In addition to that, it should also have the capacity to hold 114 grams of menstrual blood per day and per crew member. It should require minimal maintenance and should be operational again within 5 minutes of use. NASA also wants designs that occupy less than 0.12 cubic metres and operate at 60 decibels or less.

NASA is also giving prize money to the top three winning designs wherein the first place will be awarded $20,000 (~ INR 15 lakhs), second place $10,000 and $5,000 to the third place. People under the age of 18 can also participate for public recognition and NASA merchandise. The contest began on June 25 and will be on till August 17, 2020.

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