How NASA Engineers Figured Out How to Make the Space Capsule’s Toilet Less Stinky



NASA is actively preparing to send astronauts back to the moon for the first time since 1972. The agency plans to send a crew on a 10-day flyby around the moon in 2023 on its Orion spaceship, followed by a mission to land people to the lunar surface in 2024. Of course, on those missions the astronauts will need a way to go to the bathroom, which presents a unique challenge. Orion's toilet, called the Universal Waste Management System (UWMS), can function within the confines of the spacecraft without creating excessive mess or smell. Given that Orion is only the length of a small powerboat and must house four waste-expelling adults for nearly a month, the system has to be compact, efficient, and not too stinky. The UWMS design isn't too different from other space toilets. Because there's no gravity in space to help flush waste downward, it uses motorized fans to suction away astronauts' urine and feces. The poop would remain stored on Orion until the ship returns to Earth, but there won't be room to store pee, and the spaceship can't recycle it into water the way the space station can. So, the plan is for Orion astronauts to vent their pee into space, where it could float frozen forever……at -455º F.