The challenge began humbly enough. The NASA Space Poop Challenge sought the answer to a serious design question for future spacesuits: if they are to be truly habitable for long durations, as they would need to be in an emergency situation, how does the astronaut safely relieve him or herself?
With that, what might’ve once been executed through a sober set of RFPs, proposals, and white papers via private inboxes, was set loose as a truly wild idea on the internet. Enter the magic of crowdsourcing.
The Space Poop Challenge, within a matter of weeks after its launch, spread its meme-wings and soared across various news aggregators until it went undeniably “viral.”
- More than 5,000 proposed solutions from 19,000 individual registered competitors were submitted.
- Participation from more than 150 teams from every country and continent on Earth (including Antarctica!)
- The challenge received unprecedented attention from top-tier media outlets, including NPR, The Washington Post, The Iran Daily, Weather.com, Popular Science, ABC News, NBC News, Space.com, and Time Magazine. The Space Poop Challenge also inspired a lengthy sketch comedy bit on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah.
- An especially active online community viewed the challenge video over 100,000 times, generated nearly 400 conversations on the challenge forum, and shared the challenge more than 6,000 times on social media
- In just one month, the challenge website had over 300,000 page views from 2,000 unique sources from around the world (the most challenge site traffic in HeroX history)
And in case you were wondering, we do have the long-awaited results.
The top award recipients are:
- Thatcher Cardon
- MACES Perineal Access & Toileting System (M-PATS)
- Space Poop Unification of Doctors (SPUDs) Team - Katherine Kin, Stacey Marie Louie, and Tony Gonzales
- Air-Powered Spacesuit Waste Disposal System
- Hugo Shelley
- SWIMSuit - Zero Gravity Underwear for 6 Day Use
While we were only able to award three prizes, there were many outstanding entries and NASA would also like to acknowledge the following semi-finalists (in no particular order):
- Team CASES- Agustín Martínez Bleda and Miguel Embid Segura: Cleaning, Analysis and Storage of ExcrementS
- Alberto Viveros: Reverse system to handle human waste for the MACES
- Charly Karamanian: Remora HW System – Inspired by Nature
- Team AlsaInventors- Jérémy ADAM and Guillaume Jarry: Hand free paperless space poop under pressure!
- Michi Mittwann: Silicon screw of Archimedes - All in one!
- Olivier Drevet: Artificial peristalsis based device
- Patricia Yang: Improved Adult Diaper Design
- Team Uranus - Rob Roberts, Eelke Wiegel, Richard van Wietingen, Jerad Whitaker, Amanda Thoss, Chris Herman, and Jeremy Moyes: Focus: Hydrophobic Gas Separation and Venting
- Sanghyuk Wooh: The P-Collector with Advanced Non-Wetting Surfaces
- Sebastián Peña: IWAS (integral waste administration system)
- Team AHEAD - Automated Home Env/ment Applications Device - Stavros Vlachoyannis and Anastassis Katsikas: SEF - Space Efficient Flush (AHEAD)
- Ted Southern: Space Suit Waste System (SSWS)
- Ted Griebling: Tube Sock
- Tracey Cook: WEHA! Waste Evacuation Hygienic Assurance
- Trey Lane: Serial Excrement Removal & Wiping Integrated System
- Vyasa Rajasekar: Self-Cleaning Bio-Diapers
- Wang Jiyao: Wearable intelligent toilet underpants
- Ziad Saghir: Emergency Evacuation Evacuation System
- Michael Haight: Space stool management protocol
- Doug Callewaert: The Rotodefecator
- Hugh McCarroll: Containment garment
The lesson here? Never doubt the power of our own fascination with extremes. It would seem that the NASA Space Poop Challenge spoke to both our most intimate knowledge of our own bodies and the incomprehensible mystery of...space. Needless to say, while it may have been a recipe for crowdsourcing history, the results will yield a critical ingredient to the future of spaceflight.