Feb 21, 2018
NASA engineers are working on a new spacesuit that includes a long-term waste-disposal system — effectively, a built-in toilet. Such a system hasn’t been a part of NASA spacesuits since the Apollo era, and the new waste-disposal system will likely have a lot in common with those used in the 1970s.
The new suits, called the Orion Crew Survival Systems Suits (OCSSS), will be worn by astronauts on NASA’s next-generation human spacecraft, Orion, which will be able to carry humans well beyond low Earth orbit. While the vehicle isn’t big enough to support a nine-month trip to Mars, Orion could carry humans around the moon and back.
Like the space shuttle before it, Orion will be equipped with a toilet, but NASA is making contingency plans in case of emergencies, including the possibility that the Orion capsule depressurizes and the astronauts have to remain in their suits to survive. In fact, the agency wants astronauts to be able to survive in their suits for up to six days — meaning the men and women would have to be able to do things like eat, urinate and defecate without taking them off.
“That is a really long time,” Kirstyn Johnson, a NASA engineer who is leading the design of the internal systems for the Orion launch and landing suit, told Space.com. It’s a long time to be in such a small space under the best of conditions, “but then to live in a suit with all of your waste right by you for that long of a time, it could get gnarly pretty quickly.”
Johnson and her team have to try and avoid potentially gnarly outcomes, and keep astronauts safe on humanity’s return to the moon