A 9-year-old Malaysian boy has come up with a solution to a long-standing dilemma faced by the United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa): a gravity-defying loo for its next lunar mission.
Zyson Kang Zy Sun's Spacesuit Lunar Toilet can easily fit into an astronaut's spacesuit and works around microgravity in space by creating a vacuum to suck up liquids.
With the device, an astronaut has to simply move his legs to answer nature's call while in space. Zyson's design recently bagged the top prize of the prestigious Nasa's Lunar Loo Challenge 2020 (Junior Category), triumphing over 897 participants from 85 countries.
Chong Soo Sheong, 43, who has been coaching Zyson at the I-Discovery World science centre here, said his student's win was no fluke.
Zyson has a knack for inventions. He is an avid reader with an extremely curious mind. Science simply excites him, especially astronomy, he said, adding that the boy aspired to become a geneticist in future.
Chong said Zyson embarked on the project in June, and he submitted his model for the Nasa team to evaluate in August.
On Oct 29, Nasa invited him to present his model at a webinar. The Nasa team was impressed by the simplicity of his model.
The toilet does not require batteries or an electricity supply. When you move your legs, the urine will flow down into a container in the astronaut's boots, he said.
The spacesuit toilet could also benefit doctors and nurses if they need to relieve themselves while handling emergency cases.
For instance, medical personnel will normally have to remove or change out of their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) if they have to go the toilet while handling Covid-19 patients.
Zyson's compact toilet model will allow doctors and nurses to catch their toilet breaks during an emergency without having to change or remove their PPE gowns, Chong said.