NASA's Space Poop Challenge
While scientists have to face seemingly impossible challenges to make space-travel possible, one particular challenge has them baffled. NASA scientists, stumped by the question of how to dispose of astronaut excreta for long missions, have crowdsourced it. Launched on crowdsourcing platform HeroX, anyone can enter the "Space Poop Challenge" and submit a proposal for a solution by 20th December. The winner would get $30,000.
How to sign up for the Space Poop Challenge
The "Space Poop Challenge" launched by NASA can be accessed via the following link, in case you want to sign up: https://herox.com/SpacePoop
Did astronauts not have to face this problem before?
NASA missions, since the 1970s, have been relatively close to Earth, mostly in space some 250km from the surface of the planet. Therefore in emergency situations, astronauts could have made it back to Earth within hours. However, with proposals for Mars and moon missions, astronauts might have to stay in their spacesuit for up to six days, making dealing with excreta extremely difficult.
How do space shuttles and the ISS dispose of excreta?
On NASA space shuttles and the International Space Station, astronaut excreta is released into space through a powerful suction. The excreta then burns up in the Earth's atmosphere, in a way which is "not dissimilar to a shooting star", according to The Washington Post.
What is it exactly that NASA is looking for?
As prolonged use of diapers inside spacesuits could cause infection, NASA wants a small device that can fit compactly within a spacesuit. NASA requires the device to be capable of safely collecting and storing one litre of urine, 75 millilitres of fecal matter, and a little over 13 millilitres of menstrual blood for a period of six days.