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'Trouser airlock' wins $30,000 NASA 'space poop' challenge





  • NASA has selected top three designs from its $30,000 Space Poop competition
  • It called for system that can collect and channel waste away from the body
  • This would allow astronauts to relieve themselves in spacesuit for up to 6 days

By Cheyenne Macdonald For Dailymail.com

Published: 19:25 EST, 15 February 2017 | Updated: 07:59 EST, 17 February 2017

They’ve walked on the moon and circled Earth from 250 miles above, but there’s still one problem astronauts haven’t quite solved yet – pooping in space.

Now, NASA is a step closer to finding a solution after selecting the top three designs from its $30,000 Space Poop Challenge.

The competition called on innovators to develop a system that can collect and channel waste away from the body, so astronauts can relieve themselves while wearing a spacesuit in microgravity for up to six days.

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They’ve walked on the moon and circled Earth from 250 miles above, but there’s still one problem astronauts haven’t quite solved yet – pooping in space. Now, NASA is a step closer to finding a solution after selecting the top designs from its $30,000 Space Poop Challenge They’ve walked on the moon and circled Earth from 250 miles above, but there’s still one problem astronauts haven’t quite solved yet – pooping in space. Now, NASA is a step closer to finding a solution after selecting the top designs from its $30,000 Space Poop Challenge

They’ve walked on the moon and circled Earth from 250 miles above, but there’s still one problem astronauts haven’t quite solved yet – pooping in space. Now, NASA is a step closer to finding a solution after selecting the top designs from its $30,000 Space Poop Challenge

THE TOP DESIGNS

First place was granted to Thatcher Cardon for the MACES Perineal Access & Toileting System (M-PATS).

This  uses an airlock at the crotch of the suit, and inflatable bedpans and diapers that can be passed through the opening and expanded, according to NPR.

This was followed by Team Space Poop Unification of Doctors (SPUDs) for the Air-powered Spacesuit Waste Disposal System, a urinary girdle that relies on an airflow through the top of the device to direct waste to the back

Hugo Shelley took third place for the SWIMSuit - Zero Gravity Underwear for 6 Day Use, which relies on a new type of catheter that works in microgravity, which would be built into a form-fitting garment worn under the suit.

While astronauts on the International Space Station rely on a diaper-like garment for spacewalks or launch and entry activities, this is only a temporary solution.

For anything longer than a day, they wouldn’t be covered.

In a video introducing the competition, Nasa astronaut Rick Mastracchio, who has spent time on the ISS, explains:

‘As humans push beyond low Earth orbit and travel to the moon and Mars, we will have many problems to solve, most of them very complex technical problems.

‘But some are as simple as how do we go to the bathroom in space. 

'It isn’t glamorous, but it is necessary for survival.’ 

The winning designs aim to tackle this challenge.

First place was granted to Thatcher Cardon for the MACES Perineal Access & Toileting System (M-PATS).

This was followed by Team Space Poop Unification of Doctors (SPUDs) for the Air-powered Spacesuit Waste Disposal System, and Hugo Shelley for the SWIMSuit - Zero Gravity Underwear for 6 Day Use.

Cardon’s winning design uses an airlock at the crotch of the suit, and inflatable bedpans and diapers that can be passed through the opening and expanded, according to NPR.

The SPUDs team's Air-PUSH design (right), which came in second place, is a urinary girdle that relies on an airflow through the top of the device to direct waste to the back. The third place SWIMSuit design (left) uses a new type of catheter that works in microgravity, which would be built into a form-fitting garment worn under the suit The SPUDs team's Air-PUSH design (right), which came in second place, is a urinary girdle that relies on an airflow through the top of the device to direct waste to the back. The third place SWIMSuit design (left) uses a new type of catheter that works in microgravity, which would be built into a form-fitting garment worn under the suit

The SPUDs team's Air-PUSH design (right), which came in second place, is a urinary girdle that relies on an airflow through the top of the device to direct waste to the back. The third place SWIMSuit design (left) uses a new type of catheter that works in microgravity, which would be built into a form-fitting garment worn under the suit

This would even give the astronaut freedom to change underwear without taking off the spacesuit.

The SPUDs Air-PUSH design, on the other hand, is a urinary girdle that relies on an airflow through the top of the device to direct waste to the back, NPR reports.

It would then exit through a tube at the bottom.

And, the system would work for menstrual waste as well.

The third place design uses a new type of catheter that works in microgravity, which would be built into a form-fitting garment worn under the suit.

It’s hoped that these designs could potentially be developed within the next three or four years.

‘The ability to protect the crew while in a pressurized suit for such an emergency situation is one that has never before been tested in space and is critical for crew health,’ said Kirstyn Johnson, spacesuit engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

‘It was invigorating to see the number of people interested and engaged in the challenge. 

'From here, we’ll be able to use aspects of the winning designs to develop future waste management systems for use in the suit.’ 

SPACESUITS WORN TODAY 

The main spacesuits worn for spacewalks are called Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or EMU.

But astronauts have a range of other suits they wear for different activities.

The Advanced Crew Escape Suit is the orange suit that astronauts wear during launch and landing of the space shuttle.

This suit cannot be worn during spacewalks.

Sometimes, Nasa astronauts will wear the Russian Orlan spacesuit.

This suit is the Russian version of the EMU and is used for spacewalks.

Another Russian suit is the Sokol. Like the Advanced Crew Escape Suit, the Sokol is designed only to be used inside a spacecraft.

It is used on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. 

 

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Larry Whyte
Larry Whyte

He is a leading authority on business trends including ‘big data’, self-employment and the social media revolution. He’s the author of the award-winning book, Marketing Shortcuts for the Self-Employed (2011, Wiley) and a regular speaker for Bloomberg TV. He has spoken about global mega trends, big data and the social media revolution at conferences and business events around the world .

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