In space, everyday actions such as going to the bathroom and even getting a haircut can get pretty complicated due to the lack of gravity. Fortunately, space agencies have developed ways to make things easier for astronauts.

After going through numerous prototypes, NASA has developed its most effective toilet designed for space conditions. Spacecraft, as well as the International Space Station, feature a unisex toilet, which is basically a commode that holds solid and liquid wastes.

It features various bars and restraints to allow astronauts to go to the bathroom standing up or sitting down. The toilet works by using air instead of water to keep the wastes from floating around the spacecraft. As the astronauts flush the toilet, the air pulls the waste out of their body.

The liquid waste is sent to an onboard water treatment plant to be converted into drinking water while the solid waste is stored and compacted in a storage container. The stored waste is then disposed of once the spacecraft lands back on Earth.  

Despite being a high-tech toilet, it doesn’t always work flawlessly, according to former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson. She noted that there were times when she had to manually handle the waste.

“Number two is more challenging because you’re trying to hit a pretty small target,” she said according to Science Alert. “After it starts getting full, you have to put a rubber glove on and pack it down.”

Whitson also noted that from time to time, a turd escapes from the toilet and floats around.

Aside from going to the bathroom, another issue that space agencies solved is how to get a haircut in space. Due to the lack of gravity, this simple task can get messy since it can send tiny strands of hair to float inside the spacecraft.

Astronauts were able to come up with a simple solution to this issue by using a vacuum cleaner to catch hair strands that have been snipped off. They still use clippers and scissors, but every time a cut is made, the loose hair is cleaned up using the vacuum cleaner.

The Waste and Hygiene Compartment The Waste and Hygiene Compartment, or toilet, located in the International Space Station's Tranquility module. Photo: NASA/JSC