Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Election 2020: Live Results | Tracking COVID-19 | Racial Justice

Engineering Students Redesign the Restroom in Space

Video unavailable. Read transcript below.

Above: Engineering students at UC San Diego are studying the fluid dynamics of water in order to build a more comfortable and sanitary urine collection device for space travel.

— What do astronauts do when they need to pee? KPBS Reporter Tom Fudge says some students at UCSD's Jacobs School of Engineering are looking for a better answer.

When you've got to go, you're unlikely to be in zero gravity. But what if you're an astronaut on a shuttle mission? Some UCSD engineering students have forged a relationship with the Johnson Space Center to design a better space toilet. Student Timothy Havard says the current device uses suction to collected the urine. He says astronauts have complained, for years, that the system is messy and uncomfortable.

"And complaining for astronauts means it's probably a lot worse than it actually is if they're actually telling you that they don't like it," says Havard. "Because most of the time they're notorious for just going with the flow."

Havard and his collaborators - they call themselves free streamers - created a "pee machine" to simulate the flow of urine in a zero-gravity environment. He says they've yet to design a new toilet, but it may resemble a funnel or a honeycomb.


San Diego News Matters podcast branding

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Curious San Diego banner

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.