Keeping humans alive in space has posed a lot of challenges for NASA over the years.
It’s resulted in some incredible technological feats we get to enjoy on Earth. Just a few:
And don’t forget about space ice cream!
However, the geniuses behind the moon landing and Mars exploration have yet to conquer one inevitable tribulation of being human: They don’t know what to do with astronaut poop.
Conquer NASA’s Space Poop Challenge
As you may have witnessed in “The Martian,” NASA has contrived a noisy but effective space toilet that doesn’t rely on gravity. Astronauts at the International Space Station rely on some combination of vacuums, fans, hoses and thunderous suction to do away with their waste.
It’s not the kind of thing you want to use with a date waiting in the other room.
What’s worse, an astronaut spending long stints in a spacesuit relies on a diaper to do their business.
That’s where you come in, apparently.
As it’s done for other space conundrums, NASA’s Tournament Lab is running a contest and asking the public to help solve the space poop issue.
And yes, it’s really called the Space Poop Challenge — I’m not just being clever. NASA beat me to it — like they beat Russia to the moon! Hey-o!
Officially, here’s what NASA seeks:
“… solutions for fecal, urine and menstrual management systems to be used in the crew’s launch and entry suits over a continuous duration of up to 144 hours (6 days).”
The waste management system must fit inside a spacesuit, be hands-free, not rely on gravity and be “comfortable — physically, emotionally and psychologically,” according to NPR.
It would be valuable in the case of an emergency that keeps an astronaut in their spacesuit for longer than a few hours and make it possible for missions that involve spending days in a spacesuit.
The solution to this astronomical problem is worth a whopping $30,000 to the organization. Propose a fitting option, and the money could be yours.
NASA told NPR it’ll split up to $30,000 in prize money among up to three ideas submitted in the contest. If you win, your idea could be implemented to help future astronauts rest easier — although there’s no guarantee.
Got a great idea sitting in the garage? The deadline to submit is December 20.
And, hey, maybe we’ll all be wearing your brilliant wearable potty on Earth someday!
Your Turn: Do you have any ideas to solve the space poop problem?
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).