Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Science

NASA Purchases $19M Russian Space Toilet 245

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i'd-poop-in-that dept.
Gary writes "NASA has paid $19 million for a Russian-built international space station toilet system. The toilet system, similar to the one already in use in the station's Zvezda Service Module, is scheduled to arrive at the space station in 2008 and will offer more privacy for a crew expected to double from three to six by 2009. The space station toilet physically resembles those used on Earth, except it has leg restraints and thigh bars to keep astronauts and cosmonauts from floating away. NASA says purchasing the multi million dollar toilet is a bargain compared to developing one from scratch."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

NASA Purchases $19M Russian Space Toilet

Comments Filter:
  • Wow! (Score:5, Funny)

    by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Monday July 09, 2007 @07:58AM (#19799009) Homepage Journal
    I didn't realize that NASA was so flush with cash!

    *drum fill*

    I'm here all week!
  • But but but (Score:3, Insightful)

    by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Monday July 09, 2007 @08:00AM (#19799017)
    They already have one - for the Shuttle. I've seen it on Discovery or something.
    • Re:But but but (Score:4, Insightful)

      by GizmoToy (450886) on Monday July 09, 2007 @08:03AM (#19799069) Homepage
      Yea, I don't get it and the article was light on details. If it is similar to the one already in use on the space station, why did they just pay $19m for it. Couldn't they have just improved upon the design they already had in use if it even needed improving? Why buy a whole new system? You wouldn't be designing from scratch, you already have one in service!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Why buy a whole new system?

        It's not that we really needed the toilets, it's that we didn't want this advanced Russian toilet technology falling into the hands of the black market, or worse, terrorists. Imagine the kinds of dirty bombs that could be produced by a sufficiently motivated criminal organization using this Russian toilet technology. The chemical and biological implications of such a device falling into evil hands is enough to warrant funneling $19 million per toilet to the cash-strapped Russia

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Obligatory Red Meat [redmeat.com]...
    • by clickety6 (141178)
      That's the outdoor toilet.

      The astronauts would like some modern, indoor plumbing.

      After all, there's nothing worse than making your way through a dark space station to the docked shuttle when you're desperate for a wazz and then opening the wrong airlock and finding yourself drifting off through space in nothing but your rocketship jammies!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by jdray (645332)
        Kids! Back in my day, astronauts didn't have toilets. When they had to take a crap, they did it in their suits, and just lived with it for the duration of the mission. And if it stunk, that was just too bad, they learned to like it. Privacy? Yer in outer space? Who's gonna see you, anyway? Martians? I mean really...
        • No they didn't. They did it in special baggies, which they then had to seal and label with the relevant information for analysis back on earth.
    • by NReitzel (77941)
      In point of fact, NASA has a spare toilet, that was built for testing on the Enterprize. What kind of bureaucratic B.S. is this? Now, Shuttle Bad, Everything Else Good? That's nuts. There are thousands of systems on our shuttle that are perfectly well designed, and the idea of throwing them away is as silly as, say, destroying the plans for the Saturn V booster at the end of the Apollo program.

      The only explanation I can come up with is that the bureaucracy at NASA doesn't want people to know how thoroug
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Stanistani (808333)
        What an amazing intellect you have. Sir, I salute you. Let's see more of these insightful, well-researched, well-reasoned posts.
    • Re:But but but (Score:5, Informative)

      by WolfWithoutAClause (162946) on Monday July 09, 2007 @08:53AM (#19799671) Homepage
      IRC the shuttle one just collects the waste, and the waste is disposed of on the ground. Don't forget that the Shuttle is only on orbit for a couple of weeks max.

      The Russian system is actually a full sewage system, and turns the urine back into drinking water. That saves launch costs at ~20,000/kgon the water. With 3-6 astronauts up there it pays to do this.

      And it's unlikely that NASA could do this, the R&D alone would be more than that, and this is a full working toilet/waste reclaimation system.
      • Wouldn't the waste be analyzed see how it is in space? I know it's gross, but it's science.
      • The Russian system is actually a full sewage system, and turns the urine back into drinking water. That saves launch costs at ~20,000/kgon the water. With 3-6 astronauts up there it pays to do this.

        I didn't believe it in Waterworld, I certainly don't believe it now.
    • Re:But but but (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tin_Wisdom (1081631) on Monday July 09, 2007 @09:41AM (#19800351)
      As others have mentioned, the shuttle shitter is not a recycling unit, it is effectively a port-o-potty that stores the waste until the shuttle lands. The Russian model recycles the water, good for a system to be used on a long-term orbiting platform.

      NASA had developed a recycling toilet back in the 1990's for use on the space station, but compared to the Russian model, it sucked... or didn't properly suck, depending on your point of view. The Russian design is far more efficient, costs less and has the notable advantage of being tested and refined over the course of 20 years of service on Mir and Salyut stations.

      An editorial comment on NASA vs. the Russian space agency:

      NASA is run by retired astronauts, RSA is run by military leaders appointed by the State. Astronauts tend to view everything as human-centric (on manned missions), while the Russian leaders tend to look at the mission first and the crew second. Thus NASA has a safety-first mindset and one that puts the comfort of the crew (within reason) before efficiency.

      When NASA was developing the space toilet in the 80's, they came up with a design similar to the one the Russians had been using on their space stations for almost 20 years. It involved hoses and baggies. Presented to an astronaut advisory board (think "focus group"), the male astronaut reaction was almost universally "I ain't stickin' my boys in no hose!" and the design was scrapped in favor of a brutally inefficient design involving membranes, baffles and a gentle pressure differential.

      Faced with similar reaction in the Russian (then Soviet) cosmonauts, one can only imagine that the answer was along the lines of "You will stick what we tell you to stick where we tell you to stick it, Comrade!"
      • by Shakrai (717556)

        Faced with similar reaction in the Russian (then Soviet) cosmonauts, one can only imagine that the answer was along the lines of "You will stick what we tell you to stick where we tell you to stick it, Comrade!"

        That's not true. The Soviets provided free choice. You were free to choose which ear the bullet came in, for example ;)

        (As an aside, I can't believe I made it this far down into the comments and not one In Soviet Russia... joke has appeared yet)

  • by vigmeister (1112659) on Monday July 09, 2007 @08:01AM (#19799035)
    I know these are probably tasteless questions, but...

    1) Is there some sort of mechanism to ensure that Mr. Hanky the poo goes into the bowl?
    2) Can male astronauts pee standing up in this toilet?

    Cheers!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TransEurope (889206)
      1) Yes.
      2) No.
    • I RTFA again and I guess the fans that pull the waste into the commode run throughout the process (not just when you flush... like in an airplane). But...if the opening to the funnel gets airlocked... that could be painful...

      Cheers!
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        I RTFA again and I guess the fans that pull the waste into the commode run throughout the process (not just when you flush... like in an airplane).

        What happens when the shit hits the fan?
    • 1) Fans (eew!)
      2) Tubes (Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew!)
      • I hope they don't get too many people up there or else the internet will get REALLY clogged up. Although it would explain why there's so much shit on it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hcdejong (561314)
      regarding standing up...

      It seems to me you'd want to minimise leakage. On earth spattering the surroundings is an annoyance [1], in space it can be catastrophic. Why take the chance?

      1: that said, I've never understood why so many men insist on peeing standing up, when it's cleaner, more comfortable and doesn't cost more time to sit down.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Shivani1141 (996696)
        1: that said, I've never understood why so many men insist on peeing standing up, when it's cleaner, more comfortable and doesn't cost more time to sit down. eh? wha? It does in fact cost more time to sit down. Trousers, underwear, belt all have to be undone and dropped, whereas all you need to undo standing is a zipper. I've never understood why everyone seems to limit the practice to men however. It is quite common among women here as well. surprised to not see it happen everywhere, considering the appar
      • by michrech (468134) on Monday July 09, 2007 @09:09AM (#19799895)

        regarding standing up...

        It seems to me you'd want to minimise leakage. On earth spattering the surroundings is an annoyance [1], in space it can be catastrophic. Why take the chance?

        1: that said, I've never understood why so many men insist on peeing standing up, when it's cleaner, more comfortable and doesn't cost more time to sit down.
        It *does* take more time. If I can just hang "mini me" out the front of my pants (though my zipper, in the case that I'm at work and in work clothing), or pull down the top of my shorts (in case I'm pretty much anywhere else), why would I want to pull everything down, sit down for the few seconds it takes, stand back up, pull up my pants, tuck in my shirts (in the case that I'm at work), etc?

        It's just easier and quicker to aim properly.

        'course, you being female, I should have expected you not to understand.

        To speak on sitting down being "cleaner". I never have a problem with a messy toilet/floor. I hate it when I got into the bathroom at work, walk up to the urinal, and have to step around those lazy asses pee dribbles. It's like they can't be bothered to hang their junk two more inches closer to the bowl. I know if I can do it, they ought to be able to. At home, I aim at the bowl, not the seat, so I don't have problems there either. I don't know what it is with some guys. Sometimes I think they should be *required* to just go outside.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by adisakp (705706)
        that said, I've never understood why so many men insist on peeing standing up, when it's cleaner, more comfortable and doesn't cost more time to sit down.

        Woman, you're wrong on all three counts of cleanliness, comfortability, and time. Let me explain to you a little about the world of men.

        1) It's not cleaner for *US* to sit down on a dirty toilet and make contact between the toilet and our ass.

        - Regarding number one - you've obviously never seen the toilets in a mens public bathroom. If you were a
        • by Firethorn (177587)
          Regarding number one - you've obviously never seen the toilets in a mens public bathroom.

          And you've obviously never been in a female public bathroom. In my career I've had to clean the public restrooms in a couple restraunts and stores. Both sides.

          The female side was almost always dirtier than the mens room. Except for the occasional degenerate occasion, which the manager had to clean up one time because I refused. No, I didn't get fired. I was considered a 'great worker', mostly because I'd show up on
    • by dbIII (701233)

      1) Is there some sort of mechanism to ensure that Mr. Hanky the poo goes into the bowl?

      Forced air - and the high cost is because in space you really want to make sure it doesn't hit the fan.

    • 1) Is there some sort of mechanism to ensure that Mr. Hanky the poo goes into the bowl?
      2) Can male astronauts pee standing up in this toilet?

      1.) Yes, toilet itself has suction
      2.) Yes suction tube placed over phalis to collect the fluid.

    • "The space station toilet physically resembles those used on Earth, except it has leg restraints and thigh bars..."

      And in a related article, thousands of BDSM & scat fetishists rejoyced.
    • by davidsyes (765062)
      No, properly, they get to SIT down, even to pee. Isn't that better "relief" for the urinary tract instead of the walk-up, pee, shake, and walk-off routine MOST males practice every day, ostensibly to make them feel more "masculine"?
  • Going #2 (Score:5, Funny)

    by DigiShaman (671371) on Monday July 09, 2007 @08:02AM (#19799051) Homepage
    Brings new meaning to a "floater".
  • by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Monday July 09, 2007 @08:02AM (#19799053) Homepage
    I think NASA got a shitty deal there...
  • The space station toilet physically resembles those used on Earth
    The submitter must have one funny looking toilet [newlaunches.com].
    • Resembles an airplane one (which is used in Earth's atmosphere so it IS on Earth). It isn't exactly alike, but it certainly resembles it.
  • Did you notice (Score:2, Redundant)

    by rufty_tufty (888596)
    That the urine from it is recycled into potable water?

    Also i wonder why it wasn't discussed in the article why the toilet designed for the Space shuttle couldn't be used. I'd hazard a guess that it is an integration issue, the Russian one is designed for integration into a space stations systems, whereas the shuttle one is designed to standalone.
    Kind of like you have a different toilet in your house vs the one in a camper van.

    Can someone be more informative?
    • Can someone be more informative?
      I think the simple explanation is that "NASA doesn't know shit!"
  • NASA says purchasing the multi million dollar toilet is a bargain compared to developing one from scratch."

    I created a zero gravity shitter for my 7th grade science project. I would have sold it to them for half that price. :)
    • I created a zero gravity shitter for my 7th grade science project
      Damn it! I knew I shouldn't have played hooky when it was your turn to show and tell... Cheers! -- Vig
    • Well, considering just how Russia has been doing R&D for a long, long while... you sure that exchange student with that funny slavic accent was from France?
  • Worth it IMO (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jhsiao (525216) on Monday July 09, 2007 @08:20AM (#19799255)
    It's not just a toilet, but a water reclamation unit. FTA: "...the urine is automatically transferred to a U.S. device that can generate potable water."

    Plus, with this system very similar to the Russian module, there's no need for new training (and yes, you do need training to use a space toilet).

    Finally--sorry to be indelicate--but in zero gravity, I'd say it's worth the $19M to avoid small droplets of urine end up in the electronics or worse, a small piece of poo float into your Tang.

  • by Albanach (527650) on Monday July 09, 2007 @08:31AM (#19799373) Homepage
    I guess it could be a real bargain if the $19M includes delivery and installation.
  • Give me half that much money and I'll design you the most feature rich space toliet you could EVER want-- i think around $9 million ought to pay for R&D and prototyping costs. I would like to see the break down of what costs so fscking much.
    • by Colin Smith (2679)
      Same as SCSI... Testing.
       
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ThosLives (686517)

      It's hard to say. Using a generous $1M = 10 man-years of effort (at about $100/man-year) this means you would spend that much money on only 190 man-years. The question is, how many man-years to design, prototype, test, and build a production version of this?

      190 man-years seems like a lot to me though. It gets worse if you use "world average" cost of a man year, which is closer to $20k instead of $100k.

      Converting everything to man-years isn't always the best way to look at costs, but it is a handy back-o

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Technician (215283)
      I would like to see the break down of what costs so fscking much.

      Field test data. Have you priced a 2 week field test run lately?
    • by gurps_npc (621217)
      Product TESTING
  • Dmitriy Bowman: Hello, Zvezda HAL do you read me, Zvezda HAL?
    Zvezda HAL: Affirmative, Dmitriy, I read you.
    Dmitriy Bowman: Open the toilet leg restraints, Zvezda HAL.
    Zvezda HAL: I'm sorry Dmitriy, I'm afraid I can't do that. I'm going to flush you.
    Dmitriy Bowman: What's the problem? You're really pissing me off.
    Zvezda HAL: I think you know what the stinking problem is just as well as I do.
    Dmitriy Bowman: What are you talking about, Zvezda HAL? This is is a shitty situation.
    Zvezda HAL: This mission is too imp
  • Couldn't they have announced yet another design contest with a $100k going to the winner.
    • Seriously, do you want to be famous for inventing the better crapper? I mean, can you imagine this dialogue at your next job?

      "I see, you've been working for NASA?"
      "Yes, I was a designer."
      "Oh, design, great, really great. Rocket? Propulsion? Guidance?"
      "Erh... no... more like ... umm... plumbing"
      "Plumbing?"
      "Yeah, I made the loo."
  • So, is this money going to pay for an actual physical toilet, or are they just paying for the licensing of the toilet?

    Because if so, I expect loyal Slashdotters to be claiming that this is patent madness, and to start wearing t-shirts with the plans for these toilets on them, and to start launching tirades against the racketeering space plumbing business.
  • by organgtool (966989) on Monday July 09, 2007 @08:41AM (#19799469)
    It's a shame it costs $19 million. I've had nights after a few too many bean burritos where a toilet with leg restraints that kept me from flying off would have been very useful.
    • I just know there's a joke about a Mexican space project in there somewhere, but ... no, let's drop that shit.
  • by jjeffries (17675) on Monday July 09, 2007 @08:43AM (#19799491)
    Where is the little shelf where they keep the three seashells?

  • I note from TFA that "the urine is transferred to a device that generate drinking water".

    It appears there is little privacy left when they drink each others urine.
  • by J05H (5625) on Monday July 09, 2007 @08:59AM (#19799765) Homepage
    Don't underestimate the need for privacy while dropping the "bomb", so to speak. For ISS, this is the ramp-up to 6 crew members. It takes longer on the Shuttle toilets than regular Earth toilets (30+ min.), it's safe to assume the strap-in and strap-out time makes Mir-type toilets take longer, too. The pictured unit in the article has an actual crapper to sit on instead of the Shuttle's butt-sucker to strap into (think vacuum-diaper). It just seems more dignified. IIRC, the Mir-type toilets also serve a shower/cleaning function. With 2-3 crew it is simple to negotiate toilet time. With 6 people, they will need the second toilet.

    Weirdest. Topic. Ever.

    Josh
  • Though NASA was mostly happy with the purchase, it was discovered that it couldn't be used while in Space Dock.
  • by slapout (93640)
    $19 million? They probably plan on reselling it for $25 million on eBay.
     
  • My head is swirling at this crappy deal. Something stinks here, and it pains me to see the NASA people bowled over by the Russians like this.

    I think we should log a complaint against them for wiping away our limited budget on such things. But please people, this is nothing to make silly puns about -- afterall we're the ones getting pinched, and the Russians are getting flush with cash. I hope the media lights a match under this story. We need to clear the air.

  • They just need to figure out some way of creating a vacuum up there in space....

  • by lena_10326 (1100441) on Monday July 09, 2007 @09:34AM (#19800251) Homepage
    That still hold in outer space? Given that up and down is difficult to determine...
    • With no gravity to settle it in either position, you now also have "half assed" (in any way, pun intended and I know it's a bad one). So you don't only get the option to piss on the seat or sit on the bowl instead of the seat, you now also get the option to float onto it, only to notice that it was halfway down, the suction didn't work as intended because it was too far away and ... I leave the mess to your imagination.
  • Uh oh (Score:2, Funny)

    by krazo (220290)
    From TFA:

    The space station toilet physically resembles those used on Earth, except it has leg restraints and thigh bars to keep astronauts and cosmonauts from floating away. Fans suck waste into the commode.

    Astronaut 1: Uh oh
    Cosmonaut 1: What happened?
    Astronaut 1: The shit hit the fan
  • $19 million right down the crapper!
  • Bigelow, or some other group, should come up with an inexpensive loo and sell that to the feds for 5 million. Why? Because bigelow is looking to put up a NUMBER of stations, transports, and even planet bases. If they can get in the position of making it for the feds AND bigelow, they may sell 100 or more by 2020. As it is, if bigelow can put sundancer up before the end of 2010 and have BA-330 in line for the next year, most likely the first buyer of a BA-330 will be NASA to attach for living quarters at th
  • by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes&xmsnet,nl> on Monday July 09, 2007 @10:43AM (#19801257)
    Captain's log, September 29th, 2007...
  • there's a space toilet.
  • New meaning to elimintating waste
  • We all remember the discussion about the moon shot. "But what did come out of it?" was the general question. Those billion bucks just to get some worthless rocks?

    There were all sorts of additional developments, out of the necessity of creating new materials for the requirements of space flight that also had good applications down here on earth.

    Sure, today all we want is immediately applicable results. We want a cost/benefit calculation. Another thing that's wrong with today's R&D efforts. They just see
  • PROFIT!!!

    too obvious not to be said I suppose
  • According to the NPR story on this last week, it was reported at $19M, but NASA says it was more like $15 million.
    It's still way more accurate than most science reporting, but it was still about 27% high.
  • by Organic Brain Damage (863655) on Monday July 09, 2007 @12:03PM (#19802411)
    my gear make me a little nervous.
  • at least we can't accuse them of buying stupid shit

    * ducks *
  • While it really pisses me off to think about paying $19mil for a toilet, the price is justified. It is a crap shoot bringing new commodal products to the market, about 90% of them are ejected from the market outright. The market serving the needs of the space community is flush with cash, and the value of this technology is often just flushed away when new ones enter the market. Having privacy concerns addressed for astronauts gives them time to think about their oratory skills, and I imagine we will have a

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." -- Albert Einstein

Working...