Humans have a long history of pooping. And in space, you still gotta do what you gotta do.
That's why NASA wants your help for the $30,000 Space Poop Challenge. This is your chance to make your mark on the space industry, and astronauts will be thanking you for years!
A Breakthrough in Bathroom Science
Current spacesuits aren't intended to double as a bathroom. They're made to protect people during launch and entry, and also during in-space activities.
You can't just slip in and out of a spacesuit, so relieving yourself becomes something you have to plan for.
Astronauts today wear what's called a Maximum Absorbency Garment, which is basically a super-absorbent adult diaper. But this solution is designed for short periods of time, and it's not a healthy and safe option for more than a day. That’s exactly where this challenge comes in.
NASA is looking for a design that handles in-suit human waste for a much longer situation, one that will meet the following guidelines (among others):
- Keep urine and/or fecal waste away from a crew member's body for a minimum of 144 hours
- Operate in a microgravity situation
- Operate while a crew member is moving, bending, and/or seated and strapped into a recumbent chair
- Require less than 5 minutes for a crew member to set up and secure to their body – on their own, without assistance
- Operate effectively for both men and women of varying size and weight
- NASA will award a total prize pool of up to $30,000 to as many as 3 of the best ideas. They're looking for solutions that will be the most promising to implement and use on missions in the next 3 or 4 years.
Everyone Poops: In Space!
Due to the microgravity environment, astronauts get all their business done using a suction-operated stand alone commode found on the International Space Station. While it may require special training to use, all in all it’s not so different from the systems we have here on Earth.
In many potential scenarios, however, the comforts of a standalone bathroom won’t be in reach. During a time like this, astronaut lives will depend on being contained to their suits for extended periods of time. They will need a safe, reliable way for their bodies to continue functioning. Given the prospect of increasingly long range future missions, the need for this back-up system is very real. In those cases in particular, the winning idea will be a literal life-saver.
Inspired to answer the call of nature (and NASA)? They’re waiting for your help! This is your opportunity to win some cash, make a difference in space travel, and keep our brave astronauts more comfortable, safe, and healthy on their future missions.
Check out the Space Poop Challenge page for more information and to accept the challenge!