One of the greatest issues astronauts have to face while traveling aboard spacecrafts is dealing with bowel movements. Hence, NASA has launched the Space Poop Challenge and offers a $30,000 reward to any person capable of providing a practical solution to this sensitive matter. However, in spite of its name, the challenge addresses a larger specter of human basic needs. In addition to solving the fecal matter disposal, NASA is also looking to deal with urine waste as well as menstrual residue.
NASA officially announced the start of the Space Poop Challenge last week on the HeroX crowdsourcing platform. The scientists urge the competitors to keep in mind that these matters do not act the same way as they do on Earth, provided that the gasses, fluids, and solids altogether float in microgravity. Hence, the methods to dispose of the human waste in space must adapt to this condition. Also, another requirement is that the new systems must provide comfort and a proper disposal for as many as 144 hours on end.
The Necessity of the Waste Disposal System for Future Missions
Up until now, astronauts could relieve themselves by using diapers, since they needed to wear the launch and entry suits for a relatively short period of time, approximately ten hours. However, according to NASA, future missions will be highly dependent on a more sophisticated waste disposal system.
One reason is to protect the crew members in case of a sudden depressurization. If this would happen, the astronauts could take refuge in their pressurized suit crew and not worry about dealing with bowel movements.
Space Poop Challenge Admissions
The participants can enter the Space Poop Challenge until December 20th, 2016. According to the space agency, the contestants do not necessarily have to work in a field that involves dealing with microgravity. NASA will announce the winner on January 31st, 2017 via the HeroX crowdsourcing platform.
Moreover, some individuals expect NASA to pay as much as $65 million in total for future similar challenges. Many believe that this has something to do with NASA engaging with Boeing and SpaceX in a race for Mars. The funds will enable companies to create ground prototype modules that would be consequently used as experiments, aiding NASA to better prepare for future launches.
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