NASA spent $23 million designing a new and improved space toilet for the astronauts on the International Space Station, and it goes up tomorrow (October 1). The new toilet is designed to be more space-efficient and to better suit the needs of the women onboard the ISS.
… Designing a space toilet is more complicated than it may seem. The first missions into space didn’t have toilets on board at all — astronaut Alan Shepard peed in his spacesuit on the launchpad in 1961, and the original solution was to pee into condom-like plastic tubes that reportedly leaked and certainly did not suit women’s needs. Engineers have come up with far better solutions since then, but it’s still not an easy problem to solve. Because there’s no gravity aboard the ISS to draw waste away from the body, the toilets must be designed to use directed airflow instead of gravity. The new toilet model, called the Universal Waste Management System (UWMS), is reportedly 65 percent lighter and 40 percent smaller than the previous model.
… The new design is meant to be more comfortable for female astronauts. Also, the old toilet only allowed crew members to either urinate or defecate, but not at the same time; the new design allows them to do both at once.