New Delhi: As NASA gets ready with its Orion spacecraft that will carry humans to destinations in deep space, the space agency is also working on some additions in the spacesuits that astronauts will wear aboard the space vehicle.
Astronauts on NASA's next-generation spacecraft may have the option of avoiding a visit to the toilet during their deep space trip as engineers at the space agency are working on a new spacesuit with a long-term waste-disposal system.
The suits are being designed to sustain the crew in the unlikely event the spacecraft loses pressure and will contain all the necessary functions to support life.
Such a system has not been a part of NASA spacesuits since the Apollo era, and the new waste-disposal system will likely have a lot in common with those used in the 1970s, Space.com reported on Tuesday.
The spacesuits NASA astronauts currently in use on the International Space Station (ISS) – known as Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMU) – were developed more than 40 years ago and have far outlasted their original 15-year design life.
While each suit has been refurbished over the years, with new features like glove warmers, improved helmet cameras and lights added, they have suffered an increasing number of problems, such as water leaking inside the helmets.
The Orion spacecraft will be able to carry humans well beyond low Earth orbit. While it is not big enough to support a nine-month trip to the Red Planet, the vehicle could carry humans around the Moon and back.
While Orion will certainly be equipped with a toilet, the new spacesuit is being designed to help astronauts survive in case of emergencies for up to six days – meaning they would have to be able to do things like eat, urinate and defecate without taking them off, the report said.
The suits will include a fecal bag that is very similar to those used in the Apollo suits, and, for men, they will also use condom catheters, which remain the simplest, most straightforward approach, Kirstyn Johnson, a NASA engineer who is leading the design of the internal systems for the Orion launch and landing suit, was quoted as saying by Space.com.
Condom catheters fit over the genitals like a condom, with a tube at the end to collect the liquid.
The female urine-disposal system is not fully developed yet, and some aspects of it are proprietary, Johnson said.
(With IANS inputs)