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NASA To Pay $30,000 For ‘Space Poop Challenge’

(Shutterstock/Marc Ward)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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NASA is promising to pay out $30,000 to anybody who figures out a way to handle fecal matter in a zero-gravity environment.

NASA launched the “Space Poop Challenge” to find a way to safely store fecal, urine, and menstrual waste for up to 144 hours in spacesuits. The space agency is offering money to anybody with a good idea.

“In space, no one can hear you flush,” the agency’s website states. “This is because in space, 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.”

Currently, NASA astronauts wear diapers to take care of their bodily needs while they’re launching, landing or spacewalking. However, these diapers are only good for a few hours and can lead to health complications.

A solution that could store an astronaut’s bodily waste for 144 hours has baffled NASA for a while, as it would have to work in a zero or low gravity environment within a pressurized spacesuit. This means would-be designers need to contend with floating water and waste.

Whatever the solution is, that suit is expected to be used by astronauts on the space agency’s Orion spacecraft, which will ultimately take NASA astronauts to Mars. Orion’s testing beings in September of 2018.

The submission deadline for the Space Poop Challenge is Dec. 20, and winners will be announced in late January.

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