Astronauts need a better way to potty in space — and NASA thinks you can help.

By Stacey Leasca
June 25, 2020
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ALJ1 / Getty Images

The United States is preparing to send people back to the moon by 2024. But, before they do NASA needs your help figuring out one big problem — space toilets.

You see, going to the bathroom in space has long been an issue. On some of the very first space missions astronauts actually went to the bathroom in space diapers, and today still use those same diapers for spacewalks along with microgravity toilets on the International Space Station. But now we are living in the future — and NASA believes we can do better. That’s why it’s partnered with HeroX, the social network for innovation and crowdsourced solutions, for the new "Lunar Loo" competition.

On behalf of the NASA Tournament Lab and NASA's Human Landing System Program, the challenge posted on HeroX seeks innovative solutions to the toilet issue in space. The crowdsourcing challenge, HeroX and NASA explained in a statement, calls on the global community to provide design concepts for fully capable, low mass toilets that can be used both in space and on the moon. And, if you submit a concept and it’s selected you could be handsomely rewarded with $20,000 for first place, $10,000 for second place, and $5,000 for third.

"The astronauts were adamant that they do not want to go back to the Apollo bags," Mike Interbartolo, a member of NASA's lunar-lander engineering team, told Business Insider. “We need a toilet that needs to work for seven days on the surface of the moon, as well as during that transit time to and from the moon.”

As to why NASA is seeking out the public’s help, Interbartolo explained that scientists, engineers, and researchers are simply looking for ideas they may have never even considered.

"We want that different perspective over the next couple months of this challenge to really kind of open our eyes to the unknown unknowns that, since we're so tightly focused on what a space toilet is, maybe there are different things that we're not aware of out there," he said.

In addition to the main Technical category, NASA and HeroX have also created the Junior category to encourage those under the age of 18 to submit their own ideas as well.

The top three participants in the Junior category will not receive cash but will receive public recognition and an item of official NASA-logoed merchandise. Have an idea for a new space toilet? Check out all the rules — including the required dimensions and weight — and submit your design here.