NASA on Thursday launched a crowdsourcing campaign offering $20,000 to the person who comes up with the best design for space toilets ahead of the agency’s 2024 flight to the Moon.
The agency issued its call on HeroX, a platform where organizations can use crowdsourcing to find “innovative solutions” to complex problems.
While space toilets are already in use at the International Space Station (ISS), they are specifically designed for microgravity, meaning people and objects appear to be weightless.
But a mission to the Moon would require a special design for the shuttle’s toilets to work in lunar gravity, which is approximately one-sixth of Earth’s gravity.
The design for the space toilet must adhere to certain specifications. For example, it must weigh less than 33 pounds in Earth’s gravity, measure no more than 4.23 cubic feet, consume less than 70 watts of power and accommodate both sexes.
“While we may know how to make space toilets, we recognize that there are a lot of innovations going in waste management from the no-flush toilet to waterless toilets and more,” said Mike Interbartolo of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “So we wanted to expand our knowledge base by using this challenge to find the unknowns that might be out there.”
“We are looking forward to seeing what the crowdsourcing community can come up with that is out-of-the-box and bring different perspectives for what is needed for a toilet.”
The agency is offering a first-, second- and third-place prize for $20,000; $10,000 and $5,000, respectively. The submission deadline is Aug. 17, and the winner will be announced on Sept. 30.