Astronaut Kate Rubins and support personnel review the Universal Waste Management System, a low-gravity space toilet, in Houston.
Astronaut Kate Rubins and support personnel review the Universal Waste Management System, a low-gravity space toilet, in Houston.
PIC: Associated Press (AP)

NASA's first new space potty in decades - a USD 23 million titanium toilet better suited for women - is getting a not-so-dry run at the International Space Station before eventually flying to the moon.

It's packed inside a cargo ship that should have blasted off late Thursday from Wallops Island, Virginia. But the launch was aborted with just two minutes remaining in the countdown. Northrop Grumman said it would try again Friday night if engineers can figure out what went wrong.

Barely 100 pounds (45 kilograms) and just 28 inches (71 centimeters) tall, the new toilet is roughly half as big as the two Russian-built ones at the space station.

It's more camper-size to fit into the NASA Orion capsules that will carry astronauts to the moon in a few years.

Station residents will test it out for a few months. If the shakedown goes well, the toilet will be open for regular business.

With SpaceX now launching astronauts to the space station and Boeing less than a year from sending up its first crew, more toilets are needed. The new one will be in its own stall alongside the old one on the U.S. side of the outpost.

The old toilets cater more toward men. To better accommodate women, NASA tilted the seat on the new toilet and made it taller. The new shape should help astronauts position themselves better for No. 2, said Johnson Space Center's Melissa McKinley, the project manager.

"Cleaning up a mess is a big deal. We don't want any misses or escapes," she said.

Let's just say everything floats in weightlessness.

As for No. 1, the funnels also have been redesigned. Women can use the elongated and scooped-out funnels to urinate while sitting on the commode to poop at the same time, McKinley said. Until now, it's been one or the other for female astronauts, she noted.

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