PETALING JAYA: He’s only nine but Zyson Kang Zy Shun is the inventor behind a next-generation device which Nasa has been looking for to take on its next mission to the moon.
Zyson, a Year Three pupil from SJK (C) Pin Hwa 1, Setia Alam, created the “Spacesuit Lunar Toilet”, accomplishing the Nasa mission brief for a compact toilet that could operate in both microgravity and lunar gravity.
The young inventor’s creation bagged him the top spot in Nasa’s prestigious Lunar Loo Challenge (Junior Category), beating 897 participants from 85 countries.
His design may be adapted for use in the Artemis lunar landers – Nasa’s programme to return
astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024.
Invited to present his design to Nasa on Oct 28 via a webinar, Zyson wowed the panel of astronomy experts with his simple yet effective idea for pooping in space.
Zyson’s invention can fit snugly into an astronaut’s spacesuit and does not need electricity or batteries as it uses mechanical kinetic power.
“My design revolves around convenience. It works by applying a manual mechanical kinetic concept to produce a vacuum suction power to crystallise urine and faecal matter for safe disposal.
“When you move your legs, urine will flow down into a container in the astronaut’s boots.
“The design does not require any electrical components, hence, minimising the potential of a malfunction in space, ” said Zyson, an aspiring geneticist who is enthusiastic about astronomy.
The boy has participated in many science fairs, made a solar system model in 2016 when he was just five and presented it to Malaysia’s first astronaut Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor.
Last year, he designed a solar charging station that could charge a space vehicle, eliminating the need to install a big battery.
His science coach, Chong Soo Sheong, 43, of I-Discovery World science centre in Kuala Lumpur, said Zyson has always been interested in space, automotive vehicles and genetic engineering.
Noting that the invention was mooted by Zyson, Chong said his role was to guide and assist pupils when they hit a road bump.
“We just guide and ask questions to help them think, then they
will come up with an answer, ” he said.
He said they spent two months brainstorming to come up with solutions to solve the Nasa challenge, build the prototype and the final product.
“We learnt about using a syringe and made different models with syringes before this. We thought about how to create a model with simple suction that can function under micro or zero gravity.
“There must be a pump. A syringe was the answer.
“So we started to try out the model, adding a container, tube and other fittings to make it function. We then fitted it to the shoes and pants to make it possible to pump without using hands, ’’ he said.
Chong said Zyson’s invention did not happen overnight.
“He toiled on his design endlessly for months. Solving the challenge involved, dissecting the problem and coming up with solutions.
“There were many trials and errors and learning curves.
“But I’m glad that his perseverance and continuous learning enabled him to stand out in an international platform and show the world his talent, ” he said.
Although space toilets already exist and are in use, they are designed for microgravity only and do not take lunar gravity into account.