Toilets come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and specifications. As a result, their cost can vary greatly. In fact, it’s estimated that residential toilets alone can range between $75 and $8,265, according to Home Advisor. However, the most expensive restroom in the world isn’t even on this planet. Currently, the costliest toilet ever assembled is sitting high in the International Space Station.
In 2020, NASA launched a $23 million commode into space to test out its functionality on the ISS. Dubbed the Universal Waste Management System (UWMS), this extraterrestrial toilet is the result of six years of painstaking engineering from the top minds in the country. If this commode lives up to expectations, a second version will be used on the upcoming Artemis 2 lunar mission and might even be the toilet of choice for a potential trip to Mars.
Going in Space
Going to space is an earth-shattering idea that still amazes and inspires, but going in space is something that doesn’t get quite as much attention. Without any gravity to assist in the process, astronauts have to rely on another force to facilitate the natural flow of things: suction. It’s probably the least glorious aspect of space travel, but it’s essential. The new ISS commode makes use of a large fan to collect all the waste astronauts create in proper receptacles.
To pee, astronauts have to use a funnel attached to a hose that pulls the urine into a collection chamber to prevent it from floating away. Water, an invaluable and rare commodity in space, is actually separated from the urine to be reused. NASA is looking into the same recycling process for fecal matter, but for now, the process of going number two remains rather simple.
When nature calls, astronauts sit on the top of the space tank that automatically collects the excrement via the same suction process. The waste is collected in small bags that are replaced regularly. When the excrement bags are full, they’re jettisoned into space since astronauts have no other way of ridding the toxic waste. It’s not a pretty process, but the UWMS is a massive improvement for astronauts going in space.
The UWMS puts function and practicality above comfort and aesthetic design, resulting in a rather industrial appearance. In the name of energy efficiency and space limitations, NASA designed its new commode to be 40% lighter and 65% smaller than its predecessors. It stands just over two feet tall and mimics the size of a camper toilet, despite being infinitely more expensive and valuable.
Another important advancement in the ISS’s newest commode is its increased inclusivity. Earlier versions of astronaut toilets were primarily designed for men but adjustments became essential as the team of astronauts grew more diverse. Now, the contraptions used to suction astronaut waste are more accommodating to both male and female anatomies, making it easier for everyone in space to go boldly.
Further Reading: The Latest High-Tech Toilets
Bringing Things Back to Earth
Astronauts are the only people who require a $23 million toilet given their out-of-this-world circumstances. Still, the newest space commode can teach us something about restrooms in general: there’s always room for improvement. Unfortunately, people and public officials are resigned to the idea that public restrooms can’t be changed for the better to meet the needs of communities.
That’s where the Portland Loo can help! We’re revolutionizing the concept of a restroom to solve the issues traditionally associated with these public amenities. The Portland Loo provides all members of society a place to go while deterring crime, improving safety, and creating a healthier city. Dozens of cities across the country and internationally are experiencing the myriad benefits of the Loo.
If you’re interested in learning more about what the Portland Loo can offer your city or how you can go about bringing one to your hometown, feel free to contact us. We’ll be happy to answer all your questions and provide you with helpful resources.