The Need for a $23 million Dollar Toilet in Space

The skies that blanket immense celestial objects have always fascinated mankind to a certain degree since the ancient days—planets and exoplanets, star clusters and nebulae, black holes and wormholes. The fabric of time and space is perhaps the perfect mix of mystery and awe.
What future does this vast expanse of space have for us, humans? Will we be able to reap the benefits if more astronauts are sent into space?


The word astronaut is derived from the Greek words “astron,” which translates as star, and “nautes,” which translates as sailor. Thus, astronauts are sailors of the immeasurable sea of space. In the ‘50s, satellites encircling the earth amazed the masses. In the ‘60s, mankind’s curiosity was put into action and investments were made to enable the first astronauts to walk on space. These feats are a testament to the strength and perseverance of the human spirit, which peaked on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong took a big step for mankind by walking on the moon, becoming the first man to leave a footprint on the celestial body. Our hunger for the cosmos continues to grow ever deeper.

The past decades of space exploration have taught us something valuable. That no matter how much we idolize and look up to them, the astronauts are fragile; an endless supply of water, food, oxygen, and shelter are stark reminders of humanity no matter how far one has reached in space. We sometimes forget that they’re also typical humans with the same functions, not gods. At the end of the day, we’re still slaves to our physiology.

Boldly going with style

The new space toilet was launched by NASA to the International Space Station to be tested by astronauts before it goes on official missions. The glorified toilet is known as the Universal Waste Management System, which was part of the newly replenished supply shipment.

Behind this high-tech toilet are six years of investment planning and almost $23 million to manifest the design (which covers the cost of two toilets). The first one is to be tested on the International Space Station. If everything goes well and if it performs as expected, the second toilet will be sent to the moon in a few years as part of NASA’s Artemis 2 mission. The toilet might also be revolutionized for use inlanders and spacecraft en route to the red planet.

“The toilet was designed for exploration, and it builds on previous spaceflight toilet design,” exclaimed McKinely during a press conference. “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.”

The designers behind this toilet had to take into account the limited amount of space within NASA’s deep-space capsule called Orion. This means that if a new toilet is to be developed, it needs to be ergonomic and efficient as the previous models being used in the International Space Station. “Space and power are at a premium on a spacecraft,” McKinley added during the press conference. “You can imagine that optimizing those can help out in lots of ways.” For this reason, the engineers designed it to be 65% smaller and 40% less weight than the current toiled being used.

The new toilet is equipped with a fan system and a funnel attached to a hose. It also comes with a removable waste compactor that allows astronauts to deposit their droppings, which are then sucked into a baggie. The baggie is sealed every time an astronaut finishes and pushes the bag down into the canister until it is full. Once it is full, it will then be discarded into outer space along with the dust and gas from the nearby stars, meaning they don’t have to inquire for plumbing services.

Photo Sources:

Cover – Pixabay
Photo #1 – Pixabay
Photo #2 – NASA via