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Overview

The Problem

In space, no one can hear you flush. That's because in space, there are no toilets. While you may go about your life mostly unaffected by this, it is more of a challenge for our brave astronauts, dwelling in their space suits. 

After all: when you gotta go, you gotta go. And sometimes you gotta go in a total vacuum.

 

Background

Current space suits are worn for launch and entry activities and in-space activities to protect the crew from any unforeseen circumstances that the space environment can cause. An astronaut might find themselves in this suit for up to 10 hours at a time nominally for launch or landing, or up to 6 days if something catastrophic happens while in space.

The old standby solution consisted of diapers in case astronauts needed to relieve themselves. However, the diaper is a low-tech and very temporary solution. Most significantly, it doesn’t provide a healthy or protective option longer than one day.

 

What a Breakthrough Looks Like

What this challenge set out to crowdsource was a complete system inside a space suit that collects human waste for up to 144 hours and routes it away from the body, without the use of hands. The system had to operate in the conditions of space - where solids, fluids, and gases float around in microgravity (what most of us think of as "zero gravity") and don't necessarily mix or act the way they would on earth.  No small task there. 

Ultimately, the system developed from this challenge will help keep astronauts alive and healthy over six days, or 144 hrs.

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How to Poop in Space: NASA Unveils Winners of Space Poop Challenge

Feb. 15, 2017, 9 a.m. PST
Winner Announcement coverage from Space.com

Space Poop Problem-Solvers Take Home Cash Prizes From NASA

Feb. 15, 2017, 8 a.m. PST
This NPR article contains some details about the winning solutions as well as quotes from the winners.

NASA's "Space Poop" HeroX Challenge Breaks Crowdsourcing Competition Records

Feb. 15, 2017, 6 a.m. PST
HeroX Press Release announcing Space Poop Winners

Winners of Space Poop Challenge Receive $30,000

Feb. 15, 2017, 6 a.m. PST
Space Poop winner announcement published by NASA.

New ‘Space Poop’ System Could Fly on Orion Deep-Space Mission

Feb. 5, 2017, 9 p.m. PST
Coverage from Space.com and NBCnews detailing how winning solutions might be incorporated into future NASA missions.

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