Any intrepid pioneer heading into space is destined to face many tough challenges, but I bet you never thought going to the toilet would be one of the major ones.
NASA has created an interesting challenge for creative minds to solve an age old problem with spaceflight; how to use the bathroom when floating around in a spacesuit. Participants are invited to enter the competition and invent a suit that both looks stylish and can contain an astronauts waste for up to 6 days. The waste, all 3 types, has to be kept away from the body and not interrupt their movements. The winner will scoop $30,000 as a prize and possibly help in the advancement of mankind. Are you the next Howard Wolowitz, the ISS toilet inventor from BBT? Entrants have until December 20th to submit their ideas. Enter the challenge here.
“I can tell you that space flight is not always glamorous. People need to go to the bathroom even in a spacecraft.” Rick Mastracchio – NASA Astronaut
EVA’s, or Extravehicular activities can last up to 10 hours at a time. Their purpose is usually to conduct maintenance on spacecraft and they were first performed and perfected on the Gemini Missions by the likes of Buzz Aldrin. It is possible that astronauts of the future will face longer periods of time outside of their spacecraft and that will come with the obvious hygiene problems. In order to keep the astronaut healthy, a new system is needed to get rid of any waste.
Currently, astronauts wear a kind of absorbent diaper when leaving their vehicles. Due to the lack of gravity on the body, the body won’t always let you know when you need to go and you don’t want a load of urine bouncing around inside your suit. The diaper works for a few hours, but a more permanent solution is needed for longer missions for health reasons. This isn’t just a matter of the astronaut being comfortable, afterall, who wants to wear a diaper for a week? Any longer than a day and serious problems can start to occur.
“Given enough time, infection, and even sepsis can set in. This is the problem we are asking you to help us with.” Rick Mastracchio – NASA Astronaut
NASA say they plan to start testing the winning idea next year on some lucky test subjects, and then roll out the plan within a few years, should they prove successful.
What will your design look like? Let me know if you will be getting involved in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.