In 2024, NASA is sending astronauts back to the moon with only the best technology - and that extends to the toilet.
The space agency is inviting members of the public to submit their designs for a ‘Lunar Loo’, with a cash prize up for grabs.
What’s the challenge?
NASA is looking for submissions for designs for a toilet that will be used by Artemis astronauts on the next moon exploration mission in 2024.
The competition instructions state, “The Lunar Loo Challenge seeks novel design concepts for low-mass, compact toilets that can reduce the current state-of-the art toilet mass by more than half – from 54 kg to 31 kg – and reduce the volume by 70% – from 0.17 cubic meters to 0.12 cubic meters.
“For comparison, the standard toilet you might have in your house weighs 30-60 kg, but the complexity of operating in reduced gravity environments requires more components for a space toilet.”
Lunar Loo toilet designs must allow for astronauts to use it in both lunar gravity and microgravity. Gravity on the moon is approximately one sixth of the Earth’s gravity.
The winners of the Lunar Loo design will be rewarded $35,000 (around £27,900). NASA hopes that the prize will attract “radically new and different approaches to the problem of human waste capture and containment”.
How to enter?
If you think you’ve got what it takes to design NASA’s next toilet, then you’ll need to head over to the NASA website here.
Click on the “solve this challenge” button on the website, where you’ll be prompted to create an account.
You can do this by signing in with Facebook, a Google account, or you can create an account from scratch by filling out your name, email address and password. Once you’ve verified your email, you can continue with the Lunar Loo challenge.
You’ll be directed to a page going over the terms and conditions of the challenge. After you’ve accepted the terms and conditions, you can then choose to enter the competition as an individual or as a team. You can choose to create or join a team later in the process if you change your mind.
Now you can begin filling out your submission.
The form asks you to include information such as:
- A title for your submission and a short description
- How you heard about the challenge
- Your full name and email address (if you’re submitting as a team, include everyone's names and email addresses) and a bit about your background
- An overview of your proposed design concept
- How your design will work in microgravity and lunar gravity, how it will accommodate a female and male crew and how easy it’ll be to use and maintain
Once you’ve completed your application, you’ll get a chance to look over your submission before you hit entry.
Lunar Loo challenge for kids
To enter the adults Lunar Loo competition, you’ll need to be over 18 years old.
However, there is a separate category for those looking to enter the challenge who are under 18 years old - the junior category.
The prize for the junior category is described as “official NASA swag and bragging rights”. The entry process for the junior category is a slimmed down version of the adult one, with questions such as:
- A short description of your design
- Write a little about yourself
- Describe how your Lunar Loo works
You can enter the junior category on the NASA website here.
When is the closing date?
The opening date to submit designs was 25 June, but don’t worry, you still have plenty of time to submit your entry.
The closing date for the competition is on 17 August, 2020. The adult winners for the competition will be announced on 30 September, and junior winners will be announced on 20 October.