Have you ever thought about how to use the restroom in space? For NASA’s Artemisastronauts, that will mean having to use the restroom in both the microgravity of space and on the lunar surface. There are no rest stops in space though, so earlier this year, NASA launched the Lunar Loo Challenge to crowdsource innovative space toilet concepts. New designs could help future explorers have a place to answer nature’s call on missions to the Moon.
The Lunar Loo challenge sought novel design concepts for low-mass, compact toilets that could reduce the current state-of-the-art toilet mass by more than half – from 54 kg to 15 kg – and reduce the volume by more than a quarter — from 0.17 cubic meters to 0.12 cubic meters. Designs also had to allow astronauts to urinate and defecate in both lunar gravity and microgravity. Although space toilets already exist and are in use (at the International Space Station, for example), they are designed for microgravity only.
“The team was blown away by the level of response this challenge received,” said Mike Interbartolo, manager for the Lunar Loo Challenge out of NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) Crew Compartment Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “The entries have given us high-quality, innovative concepts for incorporating into the final toilet design.”
Judges evaluated submissions based on capabilities, technical maturity, safety, and overall innovation. The crowdsourcing effortgarnered more than 2,000 submissions and NASA awarded prizes to five participants. The top three awardees are:
- First Prize: THRONE (Translunar Hypercritical Repository 1). The judges found the THRONE team’s innovative idea for a bladeless fan to entrain waste as a good alternative idea compared to the typical suction/vacuum pump system. The team also came up with a system to minimize crew interaction with waste bags, using a diaper genie-type concept to keep the waste bagged, facilitating easy turnaround between uses.
- Second Prize: Individualized Collapsible Astronaut Toilet (ICAT). The ICAT team’s novel approach outlines an ideal interface for an Apollo bag-like system that could allow the heavier Waste Management System on board the HLS to be jettisoned before lunar ascent. The crew could then shift to using the ICAT bag system during the transit back to lunar orbit rendezvous with Orion and Gateway.
- Third Prize: Centrifugal Lunar Toilet The Centrifugal Lunar Toilet. The team caught the judges’ attention with a trifecta of design concepts: a macerator, or shredder function for breaking down waste, a device for separating the waste, and a bagless system for containing the waste.
Honorable mentions were given to Magnum Opus Team’s foldable dry toilet and to the Fully Self Contained Lunar Toilet Team.
The challenge also attracted significant interest from students in the Junior category, garnering nearly 900 additional submissions from participants under the age of 18. The Junior category winners are listed here.
The public is invited to participate in a moderated discussion with Lunar Loo Challenge Manager Mike Interbartolo and the technical challenge winners on October 22, 2020 at 11:30 a.m. EDT. A separate webinar will be held for the Junior category winners on October 28, 2020 at 11:30 a.m. EDT. Register here.
NASA’s Artemis program includes landing the first woman and next man on the lunar surface by 2024, sending a suite of new science instruments and technology demonstrations to study the Moon and establishing a sustained presence by the end of the decade. The agency will leverage its Artemis experience and technologies to prepare for the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.
The NASA Tournament Lab, part of the agency’s Prizes and Challenges program within the Space Technology Mission Directorate, supports the use of public competitions and crowdsourcing as tools to advance NASA research and development and other mission needs.
Learn more about opportunities to participate in your space program through NASA prizes and challenges, visit: