NASA this week will launch a cargo capsule to the International Space Station, which among other things will contain a new space toilet with a posh name - Universal Waste Management System (UWMS). The new space lives up to its pompous name, as it costs a whopping $23 million.
According to NASA, the UWMS was developed in the United States, weighs 40 percent less than the toilet currently used on the International Space Station, and is 65 percent smaller in size. It also has an improved seat and funnel design and automatic airflow, which sucks waste into the toilet (don’t forget astronauts do their ones and twos in weightlessness). NASA says the UWMS will help the agency reach its goal to recover 98 percent of the water from urine during its deep space missions (yep, astronauts convert their pee into water).
According to NASA, the UWMS was designed using feedback from astronauts to create "more comfortable attachments that would make boldly going in space a more enjoyable experience". The new toilet will be installed next to its predecessor and tested for the next three years. The agency said its astronauts will use it during the agency’s future Artemis mission to the Moon.
"The big key to the exploration piece of the design is looking to optimize mass volume and power usage, which are all very important components of a spacecraft design", said Melissa McKinley, NASA Advanced Exploration Systems Logistics Reduction project manager.
Besides the new space toilet, the cargo capsule, which due to weather conditions will be launched no earlier than 1 October, will contain a virtual reality camera designed to immerse astronauts in a spacewalk as well as a radish growing experiment.