A recently designed space toilet that better accommodates women has landed at the International Space Station. The new loo was packed inside a cargo ship that successfully blasted off Friday evening from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, and arrived Monday. The astronauts will give the toilet a test run for the next few months.
Weighing almost 100 pounds (45 kilograms) and measuring 28 inches (71 centimeters) tall, the new toilet is about half as big as the two Russian-built toilets already in use at the ISS. This new toilet is 65% smaller and almost half as light than current ISS toilets in use.
The new, smaller toilet will be able to fit into the NASA Orion capsules, which will travel to the moon in future missions. In a new NASA video posted Tuesday, astronaut Chris Cassidy takes viewers on a tour of the toilet and the Waste and Hygiene Compartment (WHC) and explains more about what's it like going to the bathroom in space.
"The desire to go, the need to go, is very similar as on Earth. You just know you have to go," he says. "It doesn't feel any different because the fluid might be floating in your bladder or something. No, it's just the exact same sensation."
As previously reported, the new toilet is designed with a tilted seat, new shape and redesigned funnels for urination.
The microgravity toilets used on the ISS use suction to keep waste from escaping during a potty break in space, but the new system has a new shape to better fit female anatomy. The toilet is also better suited to capture more waste than before.
"Cleaning up a mess is a big deal. We don't want any misses or escapes," Johnson Space Center project manager Melissa McKinley told The Guardian. "Let's just say everything floats in weightlessness."
The new toilet system also has a lower mass than prior systems, is simpler to use, provides increased crew comfort and performance, and treats urine so it can be safely processed by the spacecraft recycling systems," according to a NASA report previously published in June.
The toilet will be placed in its own stall next to the old one on the US side of the space station. The toilet currently on the US side of the space station was designed in the 1990s.
This new Universal Waste Management System toilet will remain on the ISS until the end of the space station's lifetime.