Sunday 4 December 2016

Help NASA solve its 'space poop' problem - and win €28k

Adam Boult

Published 29/11/2016 | 16:25

NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore operating outside the International Space Station in 2015 CREDIT: NASA
NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore operating outside the International Space Station in 2015 CREDIT: NASA

NASA wants your help to solve a rather complicated issue affecting the comfort and safety of its astronauts.

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That issue is (and keep a straight face please, we're all adults here and there's nothing remotely amusing about normal bodily functions) poo. Or 'poop', as NASA are calling it, because they're Americans.

"In space," the agency reminds us, "there are no toilets. While you may go about your life mostly unaffected by this, it is more of a challenge for our brave astronauts in their space suits.

"After all: when you gotta go, you gotta go. And sometimes you gotta go in a total vacuum."

Astronauts have previously relied on adult nappies while wearing their launch and entry suits - a temporary solution that is only good for around a day.

NASA is now sponsoring the "Space Poop Challenge," through which it is seeking the public's help to devise an "in-suit waste management system" for astronauts to use for up to 144 hours at a time.

There's a $30,000 (around €28k) prize up for grabs for whoever who comes up with a solution that NASA judges to be the "most promising for implementation and use on missions in the next three or four years."

According to the competition website the winning solution must keep urine and/or fecal waste away from a crew member’s body for a minimum of 144 hours while in a space suit.

It must be capable of operating in a "microgravity scenario" while crew members are moving, bending or seated, and astronauts must be able to set it up on their own in less than five minutes.

Full details are on the Hero X website. Submissions must be made online before 11.59pm EST on December 20th, 2016, and the winner or winners will be selected by a judging panel.

Telegraph.co.uk

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