With the prospect of life on the seven planets recently discovered, astronauts will increasingly search and explore the relatively close environments. The question that plagues many minds as the new venture begins: where do astronauts go to the bathroom?
For years, NASA has been taking care of business with the help of good old-fashioned diapers. But the agency has realized it’s finally time for a change and recently launched a space poop competition to keep astronauts from floating in their own defecation any longer.
Crowdsourcing company, HeroX, handled the campaign submissions since its start in October. Over 5,000 ideas were proposed by 20,000 people working as individuals and teams.
The competition called for inventions that were small, allowed movement, worked for men and women alike and could be used for multiple days at a time.
Thatcher Cardon, a physician and flight surgeon, took home the grand prize of $15,000. Cardon’s experience with minimally invasive surgeries inspired him to create an air-locked groin area in the space suit to allow poop to get out rather than being stored. The airlock will allow items like diapers and bedpans to come into the suit then be sent off into space.
“I thought about what I know regarding less invasive surgeries like laparoscopy or arthroscopy or even endovascular techniques they use in cardiology — they can do some amazing things in very small openings.” Cardon told NPR.
The Space Poop Unification Doctors, a three-person team, were awarded $10,000 as the runners-up. Their design utilized an air-powered system to push waste away from the astronaut’s body and store it elsewhere in the suit.
The $5,000 third place prize went to Hugo Shelly, a product designer. His “SWIMSuit Zero Gravity Underwear” idea is similar to a wetsuit that keeps the user dry and sanitizes solid waste.
Top Image: Pixabay, CC0
Chamberlain Smith is a freelance writer based in Athens, Georgia.