- NASA designed the $23M titanium toilet to be comfortable for both men and women.
- This model may become the first toilet on the moon in 2024.
The last time the International Space Station got a new toilet was back in the early 1990s, so it’s due for this $23 million titanium upgrade. The last one didn’t consider the physical differences in how men and women go to the bathroom. It’s not as easy to just go when you’re in orbit—kind of like when you try to make dinner right after you move. Nothing’s in the right box and doing the most straightforward thing takes forever. Or like camping.
Not So Easy, Pooping in Space
But in this case, the stakes if you mess up are much higher. “Cleaning up a mess is a big deal,” said Melissa McKinley, the Space Center project manager for the toilet payload, “We don’t want any misses or escapes.” She’s discreetly referring to what can happen when you go to the bathroom without gravity. Any old thing can float right out of the “bowl” and take a spin around the space station.
During the Apollo 10 mission in 1969, the infamous transmission came crackling through thousands of miles of outer space, “Give me a napkin quick. There’s a turd floating through the air.” Commander Tom Stafford lept into action, wrangling the bogie. Still, the mystery remains of who didn’t do a secure enough job handling their business.
Back then, the advanced technology for using the bathroom was to tape a plastic bag to your butt and hope that everything stayed in the right place (inside the bag). With NASA planning on returning to the moon in 2024 and staying, they’re eager to resolve any bathroom issues. Using the toilet, even the new titanium model, isn’t without its own unique challenges.
Works for Men and Women
It will be the first toilet that allows women to pee and poop at the same time. Previously, astronauts used a separate funnel attachment for liquid waste and only sat on the toilet for solid waste. They also changed the seat’s angle for the new model to make it easier for women to sit while getting their business done.
Shannon Walker is an astronaut who has spent time on the ISS and will be part of the next SpaceX crew. Regarding the new toilet, she told the Associated Press, “Trust me, I’ve got going to the bathroom in space down because that is a vital, vital thing to know how to do.”