NASA has been crowdsourcing a system for space suits to help astronauts when they "gotta go."
When you have to go, you have to go. But what if you have to go when floating in outer space, bajillions of miles beyond low Earth orbit?
Apparently, helping astronauts deal with nature’s call is a pressing problem. So much so that NASA recently hosted a “Space Poop Challenge,” in partnership with the HeroX crowdsourcing website, to spark innovation for a better system for dealing with bodily functions. According to a Washington Post article, astronauts typically wear adult diapers in their spacesuits, which is suitable coverage for a day. But now that NASA is planning longer space travel to Mars and perhaps beyond, the tried and true nappy is no longer a viable option, hence the call for collective brain power to come up with a better solution.
The challenge has tasked innovators to come up with a feasible fecal, urine, and menstrual management system that can work for up to six days or a duration of up to 144 hours. The technology, integrated into a space suit, needs to meet a number of requirements: It has to collect up to 75 grams of fecal matter and 1 liter of urine per day for six days; it must operate in microgravity and be hands free; and it can’t leak oxygen.
The bathroom system has to work with NASA’s Modified Advanced Crew Escape Suit and should be designed for use in extended tasks in space as well as contingency scenarios, the article said.
The contest just ended this winter, so soon we'll get to know the interesting ideas folks have come up with.