NASA sent 150 million worth of toilets to the sky, behind which was a bitter piece of “space shit”

According to statistics from the World Toilet Organization, a person's life is spent in the toilet for about 3 years. At this moment, perhaps you are reading this article on the toilet.

You may also complain that gravity is too small when you are constipated, but have you ever thought about astronauts in space with zero gravity? Going to the toilet in space has always troubled countless astronauts, because a little carelessness will The universe "flying" appears.

▲ Picture from: Vice

In order to enhance the toilet experience of astronauts, NASA recently sent a space toilet worth 23 million U.S. dollars (about 150 million) to the International Space Station .

There is no doubt that this is the most expensive toilet in history.

Where is a space toilet worth 150 million?

The full name of NASA’s new space toilet is Universal Waste Management System (UWMS ). It weighs 45 kg and is 71 cm tall. It is 65% smaller in size and 40% lighter in weight than the toilets currently used in space stations. It can be integrated into different spacecraft. Life support.

▲Universal Waste Management System (UWMS).

In zero-gravity space, the human large intestine is also in a state of weightlessness, so no matter how hard it is , it cannot be excreted like the earth. It can only be used to extract feces and urine from the body through strong airflow and store it in a special container. UWMS The airflow is produced by a 3D printed titanium alloy dual fan separator.

▲The core component of UWMS.

Compared with the old-fashioned space toilet, UWMS also added a new feature, that is, the airflow is automatically activated when the toilet lid is opened, which can control the odor diffusion.

Don't underestimate this function, because in space you cannot naturally dissipate the smell of toilets by air flow like the earth, so those peculiar smells are frozen in the air. NASA astronaut Jason Hutt was impressed by this smell :

If you want to reproduce the smell, take a few dirty diapers, used microwave oven food wrappers, and a few sweat-soaked towels, put them in an old-fashioned metal trash can and put them in the hot sun 10 Heaven, then open it and take a deep breath.

At the same time, the UWMS is also more ergonomically designed, and the titanium alloy material greatly improves the corrosion resistance and durability of the toilet to save more time for cleaning and maintenance, allowing astronauts to focus more on scientific research and exploration. On mission.

According to Melissa McKinley, the logistics project manager of NASA’s Advanced Detection System, another major feature of the new space toilet is that it is more friendly to female astronauts. It can sit on the toilet while defecation and use a special-shaped funnel and hose to suck urine. The toilet can only be carried out separately.

▲Funnel and hose for urine suction.

In addition, UWMS is also equipped with another black technology, that is, the urine purification function, which can recover the urine discharged by the astronauts for filtration and purification, and then turn it back into pure drinking water .

It is reported that the urine purification function of UWMS is realized by the Urea Bioreactor Electrochemical System (UBE), which can efficiently convert the urea in the urine into ammonia, and then decompose the ammonia into water and energy. NASA Urine Treatment Engineer Jennifer Pruitt believes that the purified water obtained in this way is cleaner than any water on earth.

▲ Astronaut drinks water in space. Image from: YouTube

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir said that the space station can now recover 90% of water-based liquids, including urine and sweat, in an attempt to simulate the water cycle in the earth's nature in the space station.

On the International Space Station, this year’s coffee may be tomorrow’s coffee.

In space far away from the earth, the recycling of water is the key to the survival of astronauts .

As a result of the high transportation costs, the 2200 liters of drinking water that the International Space Station needs to replenish each year will cost as much as 22 million US dollars , and the space station for storing drinking water is also limited.

In addition, if humans want to leave low-Earth orbit to explore further interstellar space, the difficulty of supplying materials will be further increased. The UWMS design goal is to achieve a 98% liquid recovery rate before humans go to Mars , and the International Space Station is currently the only test site that can verify this system .

NASA did not hesitate to spend 23 million U.S. dollars to develop a space toilet. In addition to preparing for future interstellar exploration, it is estimated that it is also fed up with the toilet that malfunctions from time to time in Russia.

In 2007, NASA spent 19 million to order a space toilet from Russia, and said that it was more cost-effective than its own research and development, but it became a nightmare for many astronauts.

From urine pants to black technology toilets, an alternative "space shit"

Give me a piece of toilet paper, there is a pile of shit floating in the air.

This scene took place during a manned space mission of "Apollo 10". The commander Thomas P. Stafford had to ask for help in the face of a sudden "flying."

There was no toilet in the early spacecraft, and diapers had not yet been invented. Astronauts can only use a urine bag that resembles a condom. What about female astronauts? There is no need to consider this issue, there were only male astronauts.

But this method is not safe. In 1961, Alan Shepherd became the first American astronaut to enter space, but he also set another embarrassing record.

When Shepard was waiting in the rocket that was about to be launched, she suddenly felt urinary and applied to the command center to solve it in the spacesuit. After two hours of discussion, the superior finally approved it. This made Shepard the number one. An astronaut in a spacecraft peeing his pants .

▲ Alan Shepard.

However, if the astronauts want to "open up", there is no way. They can only enema before launch and choose low-residue foods to avoid defecation when the spacecraft eats. Friends who have undergone colonoscopy should be familiar with this.

It was not until after the Apollo project that astronauts had a special stool collection bag for users to defecate. It is also called an "Apollo bag". This is a bag that can be glued to the buttocks. Every time it is convenient, it is necessary to put a fungicide and crumb.

Due to the limited space of the spacecraft, astronaut excrement would not be left on the spacecraft at that time. Urine will drain directly from the port side of the space shuttle and quickly form ice crystals. Astronaut Russell Schweickart of Apollo 9 said:

The most beautiful sight in space orbit is the urine at sunset.

When the Apollo landed on the moon, in order to reduce the weight of the spacecraft when it returned to its voyage, the astronauts directly threw the used "Apollo bag" on the moon. Not long ago, the United States announced the restart of the moon landing plan. One of the tasks is to stay on the moon. Brought back 96 bags of feces on the site.

▲ Picture from: Wired

In the 1980s, Tang Xinyuan, a Chinese engineer known as the "father of space suits," developed a highly absorbent material. Space diapers made of this material could absorb 1,400 ml of water and allow astronauts to perform a 10-hour mission. Greatly solve the problem of convenience for astronauts.

▲The absorbable functional underpants developed by NASA for female astronauts.

Astronaut Samari Nova, who knew this kind of space diaper's powerful water absorption ability, even wore it for 12 hours and traversed 1,440 kilometers to chase down his love rival .

Later, this material was also widely used in civilian fields. People can use diapers today, thanks to Tang Xinyuan .

At present, there are two toilets on the International Space Station. They are located in the two compartments of Russia and the United States. Both use airflow to suck out excrement and use rotating fans to disperse solid waste in containers. This is a big improvement over the past.

▲ The toilet on the International Space Station.

However, toileting in space is still not easy, because the opening of a space toilet is only a quarter of what we use daily, and it is not easy to aim .

Therefore, the space station specially installed a simulated toilet next to the toilet for astronauts to practice . The simulated toilet opening has a built-in camera. After sitting up, you can observe whether you are aligned through the monitor next to it.

When it is convenient, the astronauts have to take a mirror to look at the back to see if there is anything that shouldn’t be left behind. This picture is a bit funny when you think about it.

None of this is a problem, it is desperate when the toilet fails in space. Two toilets on the space station had failed many times before. According to astronaut Peggy Whitson, sometimes she even has to grab feces floating in the air with her hands.

When the space toilet fails, it not only brings hygiene problems, but also threatens the health of astronauts. NASA scientists have discovered bacterial strains that are highly resistant to antibiotics in the toilets of the space station. They may evolve into pathogenic bacteria and cause illness in astronauts.

In order to design a better space toilet, NASA also launched a " Moon Toilet Challenge " in June this year. Solicit the design proposal of the "Moon Toilet" from all over the world for the moon landing plan in 2024.

NASA requires that this "lunar toilet" must meet a number of design requirements, such as normal operation in both microgravity and lunar gravity, compatibility with male and female users, and simultaneous urination and defecation.

In a few years, astronauts may usher in a new space toilet with better experience and higher cost.

From earth to space, "gender bias" in technology products is everywhere

Whether it is the UWMS that has been sent to the space station, or the "Moon Toilet" that is solicited for the public, they emphasize the need to meet the requirements of female astronauts. This can be said to be a big improvement, and it also reflects the male-centered use of space equipment in the past. Design issues .

As far as the toilets of the current space station are concerned, even if the experience has improved a lot, it is still more difficult for female astronauts to aim at the funnel when urinating than for men.

Coincidentally, the first all-female spacewalk originally scheduled for March last year was forced to be cancelled because there was no spacesuit size suitable for female astronauts. Later, NASA released a new spacesuit with non-fixed sizes that can fit both men and women .

▲ NASA's new generation of moon landing spacesuits.

In the early years, the United States excluded women from astronaut candidates because it suspected that women would lose too much blood during menstruation in space. It was later proved that this problem did not exist.

As the author of "Paradise Flower: The Story of a Female Astronaut" pointed out in the book, women have been facing the dual challenges of gravity and secular prejudice in the field of spaceflight.

Fortunately, with the change of social concepts, this gender bias is also changing. On the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft carrying China's first female astronaut, Liu Yang modified the design of the space suit in the cabin and made gloves more suitable for female astronauts based on the shape of female hands.

▲ Liu Yang.

Except in space, the "gender bias" in product design is still everywhere on earth.

For example, the design of car seat belts does not consider women much. According to statistics, in the recent 10 years of motor vehicle accidents in the United States, women are 71% more likely to suffer minor injuries than men, 47% more likely than men to suffer serious injuries, and 21% more likely to have a mortality rate than men .

This is because most of the mannequins used in the car crash test are based on the average figure of a man, and the requirements for the frontal collision of the car in the "China Automotive Technology Research Center China New Car Evaluation Regulations" are also placed in the driver's seat and the passenger seat Male dummies and female dummies only act as rear passengers in the default test scenario.

In the medical field, there is no shortage of product designs that favor men over women. The artificial heart produced by the French medical technology company Carmat was originally designed with a male figure as the standard. Therefore, this life-related product is suitable for 86% of men, but only suitable for 86% of men. Matches about 20% of women.

During the epidemic this year, many female medical staff had to wear protective clothing that was too large despite the smallest size, greatly increasing the risk of exposure to infection.

▲ Protective clothing that is too large for female medical staff

Although the topic of gender equality is often caught in endless quarrels on the Internet, today when a large number of technology products have become an extension of our organs, we can eliminate gender bias in products and let everyone experience the convenience brought by technology on an equal basis. It is a valuable thing.

It is said that design is people-oriented, and there should be no distinction between men and women.

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