Seriously, you can win $30,000
Astronauts may be jacked math and science nerds with amazing hearts and lungs (plus chemically stable brains), but they all have at least one trait to keep them humble: they poop just like the rest of us. The reality of managing astronaut poop is actually a problem NASA is looking into now that we’ve hotboxed the Earth and are interested in longer-duration trips to places like Mars, because we’re going to require some new technology.
Let’s say you’re traveling to the international space station under the current poop model. You simply wear a diaper during the takeoff portion of the adventure, and then once you reach your destination, you’re free to hurl your poop out into the atmosphere like a shooting star for as long as you’re there. For longer commutes there is no protocol, though. And the diaper method is a lot less feasible.
That’s where NASA would love your help:
Basically the question is: how do we help people poop for days on end without compromising the barrier of their space suits, which they need in order to breathe?
They’re calling it the Space Poop Challenge, and they’re offering $30,000 to the person who can come up with a breakthrough.
What does a breakthrough look like? They lay it out on their site:
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. This system will help keep astronauts alive and healthy over 6 days, or 144 hrs.
Hm. Something that collects your poop for almost a week and stores it away from your body so you can still feel fun and flirty around your coworkers? Sounds like a fantasy.
Winning this contest is a bit of a double-edged sword, though, tbh. On the one hand I’ll respect you because wow you must really know your stuff, and on the other hand holy shit you are a true phreak on a leash for having this intimate an understanding of the poop crisis.
Anyway. It’s time to get cracking—the deadline for submissions is December 20. If you win feel free to Venmo me 10% of your earnings or name the dookie pump The Christine or something. A fair dowry.