Space travel poses a lot of problems for us humans. In addition to the extreme temperatures, vacuum, lack of gravity, radiation, etc. there are also our biological functions that need to be taken care of. Specifically: what’s the best way to go to the bathroom in a spacesuit?
Toilets on spacecraft use fan-driven suction systems to store solid waste until such time that it can be disposed of. But NASA wants a method that can be used in astronauts’ spacesuits.
In an emergency, the suits can provide clean air, shelter, water, and enough nutrients to keep a crew member alive for up to six days, but there still isn’t a way to adequately deal with bodily waste. Right now, the backup solution for suited astronauts who need to answer the call of nature is diapers, which get uncomfortable pretty fast once they're filled with feces, and can lead to infection when worn for longer than a day.
To solve the poo problem, NASA has turned to crowdfunding platform HeroX to source a system that can collect 75 grams of fecal matter and 1 liter of urine per day, for six days. Anyone who comes up with a hands-free solution that can operate in microgravity and prevent leaking oxygen could win bounties up to $30,000.
“As humans push beyond low-earth orbit to travel to the moon and Mars, we will have many problems to solve—most of them very complex, technical problems," said NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio in a video. "But some are as simple as 'How do we go to the bathroom in space?'"
Think you could come up with an answer? Check out the full criteria for the system and make sure you enter before 11:59 p.m. ET on Dec. 20. Who knows, astronauts could one day be crapping into a system you designed.