In the press

Lunar Loo challenge: NASA's search for next space toilet engineer


IN THE PAPERS - Friday, June 26: We take a look at how coronavirus is ravaging Africa's overstretched medical workforce. Also, the British papers focus on "chaotic" scenes on the Dorset coast as a heatwave prompted thousands to defy social distancing. NASA names its headquarters after Mary Jackson, the agency's first female black engineer. Finally, NASA has also launched the Lunar Loo Challenge, calling on brilliant minds to design a space toilet for the next mission in space! 


We start with The Washington Post, which is looking at how coronavirus is putting at risk Africa's indispensable healthcare workforce. According to the World Health Organization, infections among medical workers have gone up 203 percent in just the last month. Despite Africa initially being very aggressive in treating the virus, there's been a spike in community transmission and a drop in access to protective gear. A highly dangerous situation for already overstretched medical teams on the continent. Doctors in Nigeria have gone on strike demanding better conditions, while nurses in Cameroon continue to work despite being infected because they can't afford to lose pay. Africa has a disproportionately small number of coronavirus cases but doctors are warning that it could stick around on the continent for years to come, just like malaria.

Heading to the UK now where almost all the papers are focusing on chaotic scenes on the Dorset coast yesterday. The UK was sweltering under a heatwave and many defied social distancing restrictions to head to the beach. As Metro says on its front page: "Where isn't Wally?" Police were called in to maintain order. Boiling Point, the Daily Mirror says, with fears of a second wave of coronavirus. The health secretary has warned that he could close beaches if the situation continues, with the city of Bournemouth declaring a major incident yesterday. Roads were gridlocked and beachgoers left 33 tonnes of waste along the coastline, which had to be cleaned up.

Staying in the UK, it's been a 30-year wait but Liverpool have finally become Premier League champions! After winning the Champions League in 2019, the Reds have finally gotten the title that's escaped them for three decades. A title they earned without even playing. Thanks to their points lead, Liverpool finished top of the Premier League table after Manchester City lost to Chelsea. Kop Idols, the Daily Express says in reference to the most renowned supporter stand at Anfield.

Now NASA has honored Mary Jackson, the institute's first female black engineer. Jackson was immortalised in the 2016 film "Hidden Figures". She was a mathematician who became the first female black engineer at NASA in 1958. She went on to play a crucial role in helping US astronauts reach space. NPR is reporting that NASA's Washington headquarters will bear her name to honour her contributions to the agency.

Let's end with another story from NASA. The agency is of course planning to return to the Moon and in anticipation of that, they've launched a new competition to solve one of the biggest obstacles for astronauts: how to poop in space! The Lunar Loo Challenge is calling on brilliant minds to design a space toilet that can flush 500g of diarrhea. It has to be quiet, easy to clean and accommodate the waste of two astronauts for a fortnight! The Apollo-era astronauts famously hated their toilet system, which was basically a plastic bag strapped to their butts! You can read all about that in Popular Mechanics.

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