We are going back to the Moon.
Artemis is NASA’s program to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. Humanity is going back to the Moon to establish a presence that will enable eventual crewed journeys to Mars. As we prepare for our return to the Moon, innumerable activities to equip, shelter, and otherwise support future astronauts are underway. These astronauts will be eating and drinking, and subsequently urinating and defecating in microgravity and lunar gravity. While astronauts are in the cabin and out of their spacesuits, they will need a toilet that has all the same capabilities as ones here on Earth.
NASA is calling on the global community for their novel design concepts for compact toilets that can operate in both microgravity and lunar gravity. These designs may be adapted for use in the Artemis lunar landers that take us back to the Moon. Although space toilets already exist and are in use (at the International Space Station, for example), they are designed for microgravity only. NASA is looking for a next-generation device that is smaller, more efficient, and capable of working in both microgravity and lunar gravity. Getting back to the Moon by 2024 is an ambitious goal, and NASA is already working on approaches to miniaturize and streamline the existing toilets. But they are also inviting ideas from the global community, knowing that they will approach the problem with a mindset different from traditional aerospace engineering. This challenge hopes to attract radically new and different approaches to the problem of human waste capture and containment.
We want to encourage the next generation of space explorers, engineers, and scientists, and we know that students may think about this design problem without the same constraints as adults. So in addition to the main Technical category, this challenge will have a Junior category. To submit to the Junior category, you must be less than 18.
This Lunar Toilet Challenge has a total prize purse of $35,000 that will be shared among the teams submitting the top three designs in the Technical category. The top three participants in the Junior category will each receive public recognition and an item of official NASA-logoed merchandise.
With the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024, and the goal is to do this in a way that uses less mass, occupies less volume, is more energy efficient, and has streamlined processes. This massive effort is able to stay on track thanks to intensive collaboration between NASA and its commercial partners. These partners are designing and developing different elements that are part of the overall program, including lunar landers and rovers. Toilets will be integrated into landers developed by commercial partners. Due to the parallel development of components, the exact dimensions and performance specifications of lunar toilets are still unknown. Nonetheless, there are general specifications and constraints for these toilets, and they are discussed below. Designing and developing new lunar toilets may not be as exciting or intriguing as developing tools to support the exploration of the lunar surface, but the need is just as important.
Lunar toilet design concepts should allow astronauts to urinate and defecate in both microgravity and lunar gravity. Microgravity is what is generally considered “zero-g” and is experienced as weightlessness. The g-force is not actually zero in microgravity; it is just very small. Lunar gravity is approximately one sixth of Earth’s gravity, so urine and feces will fall down.
NASA is already looking at ways to make currently-used space toilets smaller, lighter, and functional in lunar gravity, so your ideas should not be based on current waste management technology. To be ready for deployment in 2024, the timelines for development and integration work are quite tight. Successful designs will probably have a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 3-5. See the Resource Tab for more information about TRLs.
The process for using proposed toilet designs must be relatively straightforward. Anything that is very time intensive or complicated to use will generally be less attractive to NASA. Toilets will operate in a nominal spacecraft environment with an air pressure of 14.7 psia (sea level like on Earth) or 8.2 psia, and the toilet storage systems could experience 0 psia (vacuum) during Extra-Vehicular Activities (EVA). Additionally, toilet designs should conserve water and help maintain a pristine environment inside the lander that is free of odors and other contaminants. Complete solutions will be ones that can support a crew of two astronauts for 14 days, while controlling odor, accommodating different types of waste (urine, feces, vomit, diarrhea, menses), and different gender users (female and male).
Additionally, toilet designs must be able to accommodate sick crew members dealing with vomiting and diarrhea. Although the preferred method for capturing vomit will be emesis bags (“throw up” bags), bonus points will be awarded to designs that can capture vomit without requiring the crew member to put his/her head in the toilet.
The specifications listed below represent the maximum allowed values. Proposed designs should at least meet them and will preferentially be lower than them. The toilet design should:
We are looking for a design that captures all the functionality of a toilet on Earth. At a minimum, crew using lunar toilets should not be exposed to vacuum during use, and toilet designs should be able to:
Additionally, in the event of a system failure, the toilet designs will ensure that:
This challenge has two categories: Technical and Junior. Submissions to both categories are due no later than 5pmET on August 17, 2020. The winners for the Technical category will be announced on September 30, and the winners for the Junior category will be announced on October 20, 2020.
The Technical category has a total prize purse of $35,000 USD. Participants must be at least 18 years old. The authors of the three most compelling submissions in this category will each win:
This challenge will also recognize the top three submissions from the Junior category, one per age group. The authors of these three submissions will each receive: public recognition from NASA and from HeroX, a winner’s certificate, and an item of official NASA-logoed merchandise. Additional “mystery” prizes may also be awarded to winners of the Junior category. Such prizes could include a video call between the winner’s science class and an astronaut, or NASA-logoed specialty items (patches, pins, etc). To submit to this category, you must be less than 18 years of age. Click here to submit to the Junior category.
Official NASA-logoed merchandise
Additional “mystery” prizes
|Open to submissions||June 25, 2020|
|Submission deadline||August 17, 2020 @ 5pm ET|
|Judging and evaluation (Technical)||August 18 - September 22, 2020|
|Winners Announced (Technical)||September 30, 2020|
|Judging and evaluation (Junior)||August 18 - October 13, 2020|
|Winners Announced (Junior)||October 20, 2020|
To advance beyond the preliminary evaluation rounds, your submission must, at minimum:
Submissions that pass the preliminary evaluation rounds will be reviewed by NASA’s evaluation panel, and winners will be selected using the Judging Criteria listed below.
Quality of proposal: clear, concise writing; thoughtful and complete explanations of how the proposed toilet design concept meets the specifications listed; accompanying CAD file (or other file format) is clear and complete.
Capabilities - usage
Overall technical feasibility of the proposal toilet design.
Compatible for use by both female and male crew members.
How well does the design address issues like ease of use, odor control, noise, and turnaround time.
Likelihood that it will function in both microgravity and lunar gravity when prototyped.
How easy will it be to adapt the design for integration into a lunar rover.
Capabilities - capacity
Likelihood that it can successfully meet the performance specifications when prototyped, capturing:
Likelihood that it can accommodate the needs of 2 crew members for 14 days.
Defines how often the collections system must be replaced or disposed of in the mission.
The likelihood that proposed toilet design can be developed and integrated in the next 2-3 years.
Quality of the explanation and supporting evidence for why a solution is designated at a particular maturity level.
Confidence that proposed design will minimize the crew handling of crew waste during maintenance or system use in all mission environments, and will not expose crew to vacuum in the event of a system failure.
Novelty or creativity of proposed approach.
Elegance of design.
Describe how the innovation overcomes limitations and constraints of existing technologies or commercial products.
Questions marked with an asterisk (*) are required. Character limits include spaces.
The Prize is open to anyone age 18 or older participating as an individual or as a team. Individual competitors and teams may originate from any country, as long as United States federal sanctions do not prohibit participation (see: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Pages/Programs.aspx). If you are a NASA employee, a Government contractor, or employed by a Government Contractor, your participation in this challenge may be restricted.
Submissions must be made in English. All challenge-related communication will be in English.
No specific qualifications or expertise in the field of waste management is required. NASA encourages outside individuals and non-expert teams to compete and propose new solutions.
To be eligible to compete, you must comply with all the terms of the challenge as defined in the Challenge-Specific Agreement.
Innovators who are awarded a prize for their submission must agree to grant NASA a royalty free, non-exclusive, irrevocable, world-wide license in all Intellectual Property demonstrated by the winning/awarded submissions. See the Challenge-Specific Agreement for complete details.
Registration and Submissions:
Submissions must be made online (only), via upload to the HeroX.com website, on or before August 17th , 2020, at 5:00 pm ET. No late submissions will be accepted.
Selection of Winners:
Based on the winning criteria, prizes will be awarded per the weighted Judging Criteria section above.
The determination of the winners will be made by HeroX based on evaluation by relevant NASA specialists.