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NASA will pay you to design a Moon toilet

Published Jun 27th, 2020 2:07PM EDT
moon toilet
Image: Mint Images/Shutterstock

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  • NASA is offering up to $20,000 for your lunar toilet designs in advance of its Artemis missions to the Moon.
  • The toilet has to be compact but also hold plenty of waste, while also being relatively quiet.
  • The competition is open until August 17th, so get your designs ready and be a part of poop history 

Toilets are great, aren’t they? The modern toilet is a marvel of engineering but it relies largely on gravity to do its thing. That makes it a special piece of equipment meant for Earth, and it’s not really something astronauts would have any use for. Peeing in zero gravity is a high-tech affair, but what about dropping a number two on Earth’s nearest neighbor, the Moon?

NASA needs this question answered, so it’s putting its money where its butt is and offering $20,000 for the best toilet design that will work not just in microgravity but also on the lunar surface. That’s a whole chunk of change for drawing up a Moon toilet, but it gets even better: Even if you don’t produce the winning design there are still sizable rewards for winning 2nd and 3rd place, who will take home $10,000 and $5,000 respectively.

The Moon isn’t completely devoid of gravity, of course, but its pull is only around one-sixth of what it is on Earth. You can still do your business and watch it tumble to the ground (or, preferably, a bowl of some sort), but the whole “flushing” mechanism is something you’ll have to work out on your own.

There are other restrictions as well, including size. The toilet can’t be larger than 4.2 cubic feet, and it has to operate relatively quietly, making no more than 60 decibels worth of noise. As for its capabilities, the toilet has to be capable of capturing both feces and urine at the same time. There are also capacity requirements, and the toilet has to be able to hole up to a liter of urine and up to 500 grams of poo before topping out.

The Artemis missions to the Moon will be a whole lot different than those of the Apollo program. Back then, human waste wasn’t much of a concern. Astronauts fired their collected urine into space from the command module and even left bags of poop on the Moon’s surface. Having a proper toilet to use while spending time on the Moon is a big upgrade by comparison, but it’s up to you to design it.

The competition will be open until August 17th, at which point the submissions will be closed and the judging will begin. It’s no guarantee that NASA will use the exact design submitted by the winning entry, but the space agency is clearly hoping to get some inspiration for its own lunar toilet design, so you could still be a part of history. Even if it’s Moon poop history.