NASA's contest: Design a 'lunar loo', win Rs. 26 lakh
NASA is going back to the Moon, with the hopes of landing the first woman and the next man there by 2024. The plan is ambitious, and to make it happen, the agency needs public help; it wants the global community to submit next-generation designs for "lunar loo" and is willing to pay Rs. 26 lakh for the best ones. Here's more about it.
NASA is working with three companies - SpaceX, Blue Origin, Dynetics - for the "Human Landing System" or lander of its Moon mission. However, to finalize and prep this system, the agency needs to upgrade the design of loo to be used by the astronauts throughout their journey to the satellite and back. This is where the new 'Lunar Loo Challenge' comes in.
Under this challenge, NASA is calling industry experts, scientists, and engineers to come with a toilet design that works in both lunar and microgravity. The International Space Station already has a toilet for microgravity, where the objects remain weightless. However, on the Moon, the gravity is a sixth of Earth's gravity, which means the waste moves differently, and has to be managed accordingly.
Along with working in both environments, the toilet also has to be smaller and more efficient than the current one. Specifically, it must be 15kg or less on Earth, occupy a volume no greater than 0.12 meter cube, consume less than 70W power, operate with a noise level less than 60 decibels and accommodate both female and male users.
NASA hopes that this challenge will draw "radically new and different approaches to the problem of human waste capture and containment" in space. "We may know how to make space toilets, [but] we recognize that there are a lot of innovations going in waste management from the no-flush toilet to waterless toilets and more," said Mike Interbartolo, the project manager of Lunar Loo Challenge.
"Think about the needs for the toilet and don't worry about it being for a spacecraft. Break it down to the base functions needed in terms of handling male/female urine, fecal, menses, and how you could do it in a compact and low mass way."
If your lunar loo concept is approved by NASA, the agency will reward you and two other interesting designs with $35,000 (Rs. 26 lakh). The last date for submission is August 17, so you better start hurrying up and prepare the design needed for the mission. Who knows it may be so good that NASA might take it to the Moon!