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Who Won NASA's Space Poop Challenge? Find Out Here!

Feb 17, 2017 03:48 AM EST
Astronaut Tanner On Space Walk
An Air Force surgeon won NASA's Space Poop Challenge. His design involves a small opening at the spacesuit's crotch to allow astronauts to change underwear.
(Photo : NASA/Getty Images)

NASA launched a controversial competition in order to help find ways to deal with poop in space. The results are in and an innovative idea just won the challenge.

The competition aims to discover ways to enable astronauts to poop in a spacesuit. NASA rewarded some of the participants that included people from various fields -- from medical practitioners, engineers, to product designers.

Dealing with poop while in microgravity is a vital step in space living. Despite some people thinking this challenge is somewhat funny, it could actually enhance the living quality of astronauts, especially in future space exploration programs.

In total, there were more than 5,000 ideas that competed for NASA's Space Poop Challenge. The winning idea was submitted by Thatcher Cardon, an Air Force officer, physician and flight surgeon. His design was inspired by his intent not to store poop in the spacesuit.

"I thought about what I know regarding less invasive surgeries like laparoscopy or arthroscopy or even endovascular techniques they use in cardiology -- they can do some amazing things in very small openings," Cardon said in an interview

READ: NASA Considering Astronauts in Its Large Rocket's Maiden Flight 

He designed an airlock at the suit's crotch that can hold an inflatable bedpan and diapers. These items can then be passed through a small opening and expand. This way, the astronauts will be able to "change" underwear while still wearing the spacesuit using the opening.

Cardon, a family practice physician who calls Seattle home, said in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News that his solution on the space poop debacle is pretty simple and was amazed that no one has thought about it before. 

"I wish I had been there to invent quantum theory and not space poop handling methods, but I guess I'll take the minor achievement," Cardon joked. He allegedly thought of the idea in half an hour that led to his $15,000 cash prize.

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