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Engineering Students Redesign the Restroom in Space

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Microgravity Undergrad Research with NASA

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.