Evolution of the space toilet

Toilet aboard Space Shuttle Challenger.

When Alan Shepard first went into space, he wet his pants. There was no toilet and that was his only option. Scientists put their heads together and created the modern diaper. Before this event, people used cloth diapers. The crews of the Apollo missions were a bit luckier, with diapers, but it still wasn’t very pleasant. Then low and behold, the first space station had a toilet. Not a traditional toilet, but a toilet all the same. When engineers were working on the first space station they encountered an interesting problem. How would a toilet work? You can’t have a traditional toilet that drains the bowl for obvious reasons. In zero gravity the water would float out of the bowl and create quite a mess. The engineers then had an idea. They would use suction.  It used a fan driven suction system that transported the waste into a separate container.  All waste that was recyclable was cleaned and reused. When in orbit the toilet was the first feature to be installed. In zero gravity the bodily system resets within two hours of being in space, so the toilet was mandatory. Several astronauts mentioned how beautiful it was to see their “waste” be jettisoned into space, since it would freeze instantly.

This article appeared in the 2nd issue of RocketSTEM magazine.

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