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Space Poop: NASA Awards $30K to Anyone Who Could Design a Spacesuit Potty

Nov 25, 2016 04:10 AM EST
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NASA is seeking proposed solutions for fecal, urine and menstrual management systems to be used in the crew’s launch and entry spacesuits.
(Photo : NASA/Getty Images)

NASA seeks to solve one urgent matter for astronauts in long-duration spaceflights: space poop.

For this reason, the agency recently launched the "Space Poop Challenge," a contest where innovators are asked to create an efficient fecal, urine and menstrual management system for spacesuits that could work for up to six days. The winning space poop solution will be awarded $30,000 prize money.

In space, NASA astronauts use diapers as an immediate solution during launch, landing or spacewalking. But diapers are only temporary and don't provide a healthy or protective option longer than one day.

On future deep space destinations like Mars or an asteroid, it could take astronauts six days to get to a proper toilet. And once astronauts are zipped up, it is impossible to access any part of their body, Yahoo News reports.

"Future missions may require long-duration waste management for use by a pressurized suited crew member," NASA wrote in HeroX, the website that hosts the competition.

"In the event of cabin depressurization or other contingency, crew members may need to take refuge in their launch and entry suits for a long-duration (144-hour). The crew member will have less than 60 minutes to get into and seal their spacesuit. To ensure the crew member's safety, the Solution needs to take no more than 5 minutes of that time."

Another requirement is that the system should work in microgravity. The challenge is that in weightlessness, fluids can blob up and stick to surfaces and solids float in the air.

The new solution will be incorporated into the Modified Advanced Crew Escape Suit (MACES), the orange spacesuit used for shuttle launches and landings, and will also be used by astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft.

The contest began on Oct. 11 and deadline of submission will be on Dec. 20. The winning solution will be tested within a year and will be fully implemented within three years.

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