NASA Offers $30,000 To Anyone Who Can Solve Its Space Poop Problem

NASA has hosted a “Space Poop Challenge” that calls for the public to devise an in-suit waste management system that will make astronauts’ lives easier. A $30,000 cash reward awaits the winner/s of the challenge.

NASA recently announced some great news for aspiring inventors who are looking to make some quick cash. The agency offered a hefty cash reward to anyone who can solve its “space poop” problem.

When nature calls, it is not always that easy to rush to the bathroom, especially in a spacesuit. Fortunately for astronauts in spacesuits, they no longer have to go to the bathroom since they are already wearing an adult diaper to take care of their bodily needs.

“In space there are no toilets,” says the agency. “When you gotta go, you gotta go. And sometimes you gotta go in a total vacuum.”

There is just one problem that has yet to be resolved: these diapers that astronauts wear are only good for a few hours. Sitting in urine, poop or menstrual fluid for too long is bad for an individual’s health, but as an astronaut, this is something that cannot be avoided sometimes. To solve this poop issue that is affecting both the safety and comfort of astronauts, NASA is sponsoring the “Space Poop Challenge” and offering a cash reward of $30,000 to the successful winner or winners that can finally eliminate this persistent problem.

The challenge, which is hosted on a website that hosts incentive-based competitions called HeroX, calls for the public to create an “in-suit waste management system” that astronauts can use for up to 144 hours at a time.

“Future missions may require long-duration waste management for use by a pressurized suited crew member,” NASA said in their statement on HeroX. “In the event of cabin depressurization or other contingency, crew members may need to take refuge in their launch and entry suits for a long-duration: 144 hours. The crew member will have less than 60 minutes to get into and seal their spacesuit. To ensure the crew member’s safety, the solution needs to take no more than five minutes (to set up and integrate with the spacesuit).”

“Waste management systems should address fecal, urine, and/or menstrual waste management in a pressurized survival suit environment for six days while protecting the safety and health of crew members. Solutions should provide for urine collection of up to 1L per day per crew member, for a total of 6 days. Fecal collection rates should be targeted for 75 grams of fecal mass and 75 mL fecal volume per crewmember per day for a total of 6 days duration. Menstrual collection systems should handle up to 80 mL over 6 days.”

Furthermore, the agency also needs the system to work in microgravity in a pressurized spacesuit, which means that designers must deal with floating water and debris that should be kept away from vital spacesuit systems and human orifices. The challenge sounds extremely rough, but seeing as the prize money is $30,000, this level of difficulty is to be expected.

The winning entry will be designed for the agency’s Modified Advanced Crew Escape Suit, which is an improvement on the orange spacesuit worn for shuttle launches and landings. The new suit is expected to be worn by crew members on the Orion spacecraft.

Innovators were asked to submit their design online before 11:59pm EST on December 20th, 2016. The winner or winners will be chosen by a judging panel that will deem the winning design to be the  “most promising for implementation and use on missions in the next three or four years.” All other necessary details are on the HeroX website.

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