NASA News & Updates: NASA Is Rewarding $30,000 To Anyone Who Can Solve Astronaut's Space Poop Problems.
NASA is offering a reward of $30,000 for anybody who can propose a system that can help keep astronauts clean pee and poo for 144 hours. They called this "The Space Poop Challenge."
In the movie adaptation directed by Ridley Scott of Andy Weir's "The Martian," the botanist Mark Watney played by Matt Damon had no issue disposing his excrement by using it as fertilizer to grow his plants. It will not be the case of NASA astronauts.
For years astraonauts have used adult diapers to deal with the issue. Richard Mastracchio, a NASA astronaut explains in a NASA video that heads outside earth's orbits, astronauts may have to spend more time in their space suits and adult diapers just won't do. Worst-case scenario, they may have to be in space suits for days, in the event of accidents or disasters.
"The Space Poop Challenge" is an engineering challenge that even the most brilliant minds in NASA have not solved. In partnership with HeroX, a crowdsourcing platform, NASA spread the news to the public for any idea.
The NASA challenge is to come up with a hands-free system to collect and redirect human waste, that includes feces, urine, and menstrual blood away from the body for at least 144 hours. To add to the challenge, the difference in gravity makes these substances behave differently as they do on earth.
NASA will incorporate the system on the next generation of space suits they will develop that can withstand 4-5 Gs impact during launch and re-entry. They will reward the winning team or person $30,000.
Richard Mastracchio further explained in his NASA video that since the Apollo missions and those assigned in the International Space Station operate in low-earth orbit, astronauts can return to earth in a few hours or less in case of emergencies. Now that NASA is going beyond low-earth orbit, it is more crucial than ever to keep astronauts alive and healthy.
NASA space suits can well provide heat, oxygen, water and nutrition but not waste disposal. Richard Mastracchio pointed out that unless this issue is not dealt with, astronauts would be prone to infection and sepsis.