NASA is hunting for a space poop genius

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NASA Astronaut Leroy Chiao
Ground personnel carry U.S. astronaut Leroy Chiao (C) in Arkalyk airport in northern Kazakhstan April 25, 2005. Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov

NASA (National Aeronautic and Space Administration) has launched the hunt for a space poop genius. Designers have time until Dec. 20 to submit a personalised waste-wicking design.

According to The West Australian, the system should be hands-free and should handle everything up to six days. NASA will award $US30,000 ($40,506) for the most innovative design.

Astronaut Rick Mastracchio perfectly explained the situation, saying that space travel is not that glamorous as it may appear. There is a time when a vehicle loses its pressure on its way to the moon. Astronauts have to wear pressure suits to protect themselves from the vacuum it creates therein. They have to go to the bathroom even while in a spacecraft. So the question is how to treat this waste in such a way that it does not harm or kill them.

Spaceships don’t have a mechanism to prepare food items or provide clean water in zero gravity. For this reason, astronauts will have to wear suits designed for the purpose. These will have to provide them with clean air, shelter, nutrients and fresh water for six days, until they safely return to earth, he added. Mastracchio also asked what a person will do if he has to use a toilet in space. What if a female astronaut gets her period?

Going to the bathroom in space exposes a person to infections and other troubles, he said. NASA does know how to send man to space, but it is still using the outdated technology called “nappies” to handle this waste problem.

And nappies have to be small because space suits don’t have much room. The mechanisms have to operate in zero gravity where fluids gases and solids float around on the surface. An effective design here will help astronauts live healthy for six days, 144 hours to be exact, hopes NASA.