NASA looks to the public to help design next space toilet

©Agence France-Presse

To prepare for the next human moonwalk slated to take place in 2024, NASA announced on Thursday the "Lunar Loo Challenge" asking the public to submit designs for a zero gravity-friendly space toilet.

When astronauts return to the moon in 2024, naturally, they're going to need to use the bathroom...which is not an easy feat in low gravity. Of course, some space toilets already exist like that of the one in the International Space Station, but NASA wants this next one to be "smaller, more efficient and capable of working in both microgravity and lunar gravity" while having all the same capabilities of our toilets here on planet Earth. 

In addition to their own aerospace engineers designing such hardware, the organization is also inviting the global community to submit their innovative ideas for the next generation of space toilets. Participants should keep in mind that while microgravity is what we conceive as weightlessness," lunar gravity is approximately one sixth of Earth's gravity, so urine and feces will fall down." The toilet should be able to manage odors and various types of waste like urine, menses, vomit and diarrhea.

The Lunar Loo Challenge is open to the public, and a junior competition is also being launched for those under 18. The desired specifications of the space toilet are outlined on NASA's Lunar Loo guidelines page.

In terms of prizes, three teams with the best designs will share $35,000, whereas the top three participants from the junior category will be publicly recognized and get some official NASA gear.

Though it is unknown whether such designs will be incorporated into the final product, NASA's engineers are sure to draw inspiration from plethora of creative submissions. The deadline is August 17 and the winners will be announced on September 30.

This toilet is expected to fly aboard the space shuttle heading towards the moon in 2024.