If mankind will one day be spending extended time exploring the far reaches of space, they’ll have to design new methods and systems to address the bodily needs of the astronaut explorers. In emergency situations, such as loss of air pressure, astronauts may be required to spend long periods of time wearing a space suit. Eating, drinking, and breathing naturally come to mind as some of the issues one has to address, but human waste management is one system that has changed very little since the first astronauts started wearing space suits. The current solution is basically an adult diaper, but this only lasts a day at the most and is hardly sanitary, let alone comfortable.
With the focus on the “space poop” issue, NASA is calling on citizens to help design a new system. According to NASA, what’s needed is:
“…a system inside a space suit that collects human waste for up to 144 hours and routes it away from the body, without the use of hands. The system has to operate in the conditions of space – where solids, fluids, and gases float around in microgravity (what most of us think of as “zero gravity”) and don’t necessarily mix or act the way they would on earth. This system will help keep astronauts alive and healthy over 6 days, or 144 hrs.”
Winners of the “Space Poop Challenge” will receive $30,000, and of course their design could potentially be implemented in the next version of the space suit.
The challenge closes on December 20, 2016. Think you’ve got what it takes to help future space explorers do their business? Check out the video below and visit the Space Poop Challenge page to submit your ideas!