While the job of an astronaut is always glamorised and hailed for being one of the coveted ones, the fact is that it also comes with unprecedented challenges and unique problems. And one of these problems is going to the toilet while being stuck in a spacesuit for hours or even days.
Up till now, NASA has been using the good ol’ diapers, but the fact is that keeping excrement so close to the body for hours can lead to a great deal of discomfort while adding to the risk of infection or even sepsis. Given this “sticky situation”, NASA has called upon the creative minds of the world to come up with a feasible solution.
The have recently launched the “Space Poop Challenge”, which consists of submitting an idea for resolving this waste removal problem. The person submitting a perfect solution before the deadline of 20th December 2016 will be entitled to win up to $30,000. But hold up, NASA also has set some tough prerequisites for the entry!
Before you start building your very own poop management system, there are some things you need to taken into account.
- When the cabin depressurizes, the astronauts are forced to spend up to 144 hours in their space suits. So the system must be able to work for at least this amount of time.
- The design should be easy and fast to implement, as the astronauts generally have less than 60 minutes to wear and seal their spacesuits. The design should not take more than five minutes to integrate.
- The system also should be light and portable. It needs to to be able to handle human waste at 3 to 4 Gs, which is the typical G-forces astronauts encounter during a launch into Earth orbit.
- And lastly, the system has to take into account the unique conditions of space, where solids, fluids, and gases do not mix as on earth and usually float around in microgravity.
In the promotional video for the Space Poop Challenge, more astronaut Richard Mastracchio says,
“I can tell you that space flight is not always glamorous, and people need to go to the bathroom even in a spacecraft. How is this waste treated such that it does not harm the astronaut or even kill them? … This is the problem we are asking you to help us with.”
The winners of the space poop challenge will be announced in January. You can visit the official Space Poop Challenge page formation.