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Space Potty

...traveled into space aboard Endeavour, serving as a high-tech solution to one of space travel's most pressing concerns.

Endeavour's potty as it looked when installed on Endeavour

photo credit: NASA

Specs

  • Size: 29 inches wide. Hole in seatfour inches wide.
  • Placement on Endeavour: on the middeck, just aft of the crew hatch

Background Information

In the microgravity environment on orbit, where everything floats, waste doesn't plop right into the toilet like it does on Earth. Without the familiar tug of gravity, poop doesn't fall off. Urine clings to any surface it touches. And water can't be used for flushing because it wouldn't stay in the toilet! To solve the delicate problem of separating waste from astronauts in space, engineers and scientists developed the Waste Collection System, or WCS, which pulled pee and poop away from the body using airflow--kind of like a vacuum cleaner works.

To use the WCS, astronauts would pee into a funnel attached to a hose that sucked the urine away. They would poop in a hole in the potty seat, but the hole was much smaller than the holes in toilet seats on Earth. Airflow would pull the poop into the right spot to be stored. For more information on going to the bathroom in space, check out the links below.

Space Potty Links

Waste Collection System
This page from NASA outlines the workings of the space potty in detail. Here, we discover that urine could be released into space if the need arose!

Space Shuttle Potty Gigapan
An interactive Gigapan photo from National Geographic photographer Jon Brack lets viewers zoom in for extreme closeup views of a space shuttle potty's details.