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PETALING JAYA, Nov 5 — A nine-year-old Malaysian has gotten a nod of approval from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) for inventing a device that lets astronauts answer nature’s call without taking off their spacesuit.
Zyson Kang Zy Shun revealed his Spacesuit Lunar Toilet invention during a webinar hosted by Nasa last Wednesday where he explained the mechanics of his design.
The device fits snugly inside an astronaut’s suit and works around microgravity by using a vacuum to siphon away any liquids, allowing astronauts to relieve themselves inside their suits.
When it’s time to use the toilet, the wearer of the suit simply has to move their leg to trigger the vacuum function which will drain any liquid into a waste disposal box inside the suit.
“A syringe pump is attached to the space boot and the vacuum container is attached to the pocket of the space pants.
“It doesn’t require electric power to operate, it just needs kinetic mechanical power,” Kang said.
The prodigy’s invention won first place in Nasa’s Lunar Loo Challenge (Junior Category) which called on young inventors to share ideas for compact toilets that will help astronauts returning to the moon in 2024 under the Artemis programme.
Nearly 900 submissions from 85 countries were submitted and Kang tied for first place with his fellow inventor Joel John Arun from the United Kingdom in the Under 11 category.
Kang explained that his invention is an upgraded version of the spacesuits used by astronauts on the Apollo moon mission in 1969.
Back then, astronauts had to urinate into a condom-like cuff that emptied into a bag but the invention was far from perfect and an official NASA report on the Apollo missions stated that “urine spills were frequent.”
Kang’s design is not only convenient for space travel but it can also be incorporated for use here on Earth by medical professionals who may not be able to have bathroom breaks during emergencies.
“This design can not only be used on the moon but it can also be used as a medical toilet.
“Since we’re now in a pandemic, doctors or nurses who need to pee or poop while they’re saving people can just go (to the toilet) like this,” said Kang.
Besides his passion for space, the Standard Three student from Selangor aspires to be a geneticist when he grows up and is a die-hard fan of the Jurassic Park franchise.
He is particularly interested in the idea of bringing back extinct species through paleogenetics.