You probably haven’t ever thought about it, but pooping in space can be pretty hard.
There’s no gravity, so if astronauts would use a normal toilet, all fluids and semi-fluids your body produces would be sent flying across the spacecraft. That’s why space toilets work with a suction system to keep things clean — but that’s not enough for NASA.
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The space agency has worked together with crowdsourcing platform HeroX to launch the Space Poop challenge, which is an open call for anyone to create a better solution for space pooping than currently available.
Specifically, NASA wants to improve the in-spacesuit pooping experience, because the current back-up solution for astronauts that need to relieve themselves is decidedly old-school — diapers. During launch or landing a crew member spends up to 10 hours in the suit, but in an emergency situation he or she could be stuck for six days.
A new system would ideally collect human waste during those six days while routing it away from the body without getting in contact with the user’s hands.
There are bounties up to $30,000 available for the three best solutions, aside from the warm feeling you’ve helped astronauts poop better in space, of course.