Imagine you’re in space and all of a sudden – nature calls. Not Number One, but Number Two. It’s not looking pretty.
Currently, astronauts wear adult diapers to address this issue, but that solution only fixes the problem for a day, a day-and-a-half at most.
NASA wants to find a better way to address pooping in space and space agency offered up a $30,000 award for someone with the most innovative “space poop” solution.
“This is an important problem to solve for future missions,” NASA astronaut Richard Mastrachhio said in a video explaining the challenge.
Duty Calls. Do You Answer?
Astronauts haven’t traveled beyond low-Earth orbit since our trips to the Moon, but with plans to go to lunar orbit and beyond looming over the horizon, astronauts need the capacity to live inside their space suit for days at a time, bringing up the question of human waste management.
Those who accept the Space Poop Challenge have until December 20th to submit plans for a customized waste-wicking solution that will take care of every detail, hands-free, for up to six days.
A waste management system wouldn’t just be used far, far away, as astronauts commonly find themselves in situations where they cannot access a bathroom. Earlier in November, three astronauts in a Russian Soyuz space capsule needed to wait two days and nights between launch and reaching the International Space Station, without having access to a toilet.
On upcoming missions to an asteroid or Mars, NASA has estimated it could take as long as 6 days to reach proper bathroom facilities. Furthermore, space suits offer a contingency plan for astronauts if they have an emergency situation and need to get to the ISS or back to Earth.
Astronauts are fully zipped into these bulky, pressurized spacesuits, wearing a large helmet and big gloves.
“While sealed, it is impossible for an astronaut to access their own body, even to scratch their nose,” NASA said.
Microgravity only exacerbates the issue of keeping human waste under control, the space agency noted. “You don’t want any of these solids and fluids stuck to your body for six days,” NASA said.
The space agency said it will select three winning concepts and test them. The stated goal is to fully implement them within three years. Do you have what it takes?
Image credit: NASA
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