In preparation for the much-anticipated manned trip to the Red Planet, the US-based space agency has launched the so-called space poop competition, which challenges would-be inventors from all over the globe to come up with a designed for an improved space suit waste disposal and management system.
While every space agency on the globe focuses on jet propulsion systems, upgraded space suits, and modular space quarters, no one has ever paused to think about one aspect – what do you do when you’re in a space suit, and you suddenly feel the urge to poop?
Traditional space suits employed diapers made from a super-absorbent material. These space diapers would be placed inside the suit before the astronaut leaves the pressurized enclosures. However, these space diapers are not a permanent solution to the problem.
According to space suit designers, the space diapers only work for a couple of hours before the user has to change them. So, what happens if you have to spend more hours outside than previously anticipated? Surely, spending all this time sitting in your own waste is not a pleasant experience, not to mention healthy.
So, in order to solve this problem, NASA has launched the space poop challenge. Contenders will have to design a perfectly-integrated waste management or disposal system. However, designing a perfect poop system is not an easy task.
According to NASA’s list of requirements, the system must be capable of absorbing feces, urine, and even menstrual fluid very fast. In addition, the proposed design must be easy to integrate into the space suit.
As the statement mentions, during events such as unexpected cabin depressurizations, the astronauts must quickly enter the space suits and remain there for quite a while. Moreover, it would seem that the interval has been estimated at 144 hours.
After the cabin depressurizes, the astronauts have less than 60 minutes to gear up. The waste disposal system should not take more than 5 minutes to integrate into the suit. Furthermore, the waste disposal system must work flawlessly in microgravity.
The space poop challenge lasts until the 20th of December and NASA will announce the winner or winners on the 31st of January, 2017. The owner of the best designed will win a $3,000 cash prize.
So, the tables are set, and now it remains to be seen who comes up with the best poop-away system. If you have a great idea and would like to participate in the project, you can upload your design on the HeroX website.
Image source: Wikipedia