Poop is a problem, especially when you’re in space. But what happens when astronauts are stuck up in a spacesuit for days? The answer is not so pleasing at all.
Apparently, NASA has not sent the astronauts beyond the low-Earth orbit so far. Even space shuttles in the International Space Shuttle (ISS) operate in low-Earth orbit, which is about 250 miles above the Earth and in the case of an emergency the crew can return to Earth in a few hours or less.
Traditionally, astronauts use adult diapers (yes, that’s a thing) to deal with the situation but these are good for 8-12 hours and that too for liquid waste only.
In a video, astronaut Rick Mastracchio explains that as NASA heads out of low-Earth orbits such as lunar orbits and beyond, astronauts will be spending much more time in their spacesuits and the diapers just won’t help.
“Now that NASA is going beyond low-earth orbits, we have to figure out a way to keep astronauts alive and healthy for many days in case of a major malfunction such as loss of vehicle pressure,” Mastracchio explains as he points out that the spacesuit can provide astronauts with clean air, food, water, shelter and enough nutrients for six days, however, if the waste is not dealt with properly, infection and even sepsis can set it.
So what’s the solution? And how do astronauts go to the bathroom in space?
Well, that’s a problem that even NASA has no solution to and in order to make space travel more, poop-friendly, NASA has partnered with crowdsourcing platform HeroX to seek possible solutions from the public. What’s more? NASA is offering a bounty of $30,000 to the genius who successfully solves its ‘space-poop challenge’.
If you’re wondering what all factors you need to keep in mind, here’s a clue. “What’s needed is a system inside a space suit that collects human waste for up to 144 hours and routes it away from the body, without the use of hands. The system has to operate in the conditions of space – where solids, fluids, and gases float around in microgravity (what most of us think of as “zero gravity”) and don’t necessarily mix or act the way they would on earth,” NASA states in its challenge.
Beware, the deadline is December 20, 2016. So you better hurry up!