Monday, November 28, 2016

To Boldly Go

Humanity's Greatest Conundrum
Photo credit: HeroX
Some problems are so intractable that even a rocket scientist can't figure them out. Sure NASA overcame the myriad challenges we faced to put a man on the moon, but this one has them stumped. The mission: to boldly defecate where no one has defecated before!

On the International Space Station they have a cool little space toilet with a spinning rotor that collects the astronaut poo and stores it for disposal at a later date. In their spacesuits they wear cosmic Depends™. But this system depends on the assumption that in an emergency you could wear your suit, hop into your trusty Soyuz capsule, and be in Siberia in just a few hours. At most you might spend a day in a dirty diaper... with the 6 or 8 Gs of reentry pressing you into it... Wait. No. Let's not go there.

How we poop now
Photo: Polimerek
But what if you're on a mission to Mars -- 6 months there and 6 months back (actually longer while you wait for it to line up with Earth again) -- and something happens. Mars is much closer to the Asteroid Belt, you know. High speed space rocks galore! If you lose air pressure you could end up spending 2 years in a space suit. They're tight and very bulky with all sorts of essential equipment already installed; no room for a personal-size space toilet in there. What do you do with all that fecal matter in your suit? And how do you avoid terminal diaper rash??

NASA does not know.

So they're tossing the problem over to us, fellow citizens, in a contest aptly named "The Space Poop Challenge." If you come up with one of the 3 best solutions to this vexing dilemma they'll give you $30,000 of your tax money as a reward.

Do have the right stuff within you? Better hurry though because the deadline for submissions is Dec. 20, 2016, 10:59 p.m. CST.

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