A waste of space


Harris Helberg, Editor-in-Chief

When space exploration is talked about, it’s traditionally mentioned alongside concepts like newfound discovery, advanced technology, and occasionally the Space Race.  Fecal matter is never been associated with space travel: until now.  NASA teamed up with HeroX, an open prize platform that helps businesses and people to create breakthroughs in whatever they please.  NASA was trying to find a comfortable, safe, and medically sound way to store waste for over 144 continuous hours.  This would allow astronauts and NASA take farther and longer missions without worrying about waste management.  Thousands of people entered the contest, which can be viewed at https://herox.com/SpacePoop, and whoever could create the most plausible and efficient way to store waste that fit NASA’s criteria would win a grand prize of 15,000 dollars, the runner-ups with 10,000 dollars, and the third place winner with 5,000 dollars.  The contest spanned from September 21st, 2016 to February 15th, 2017.  The winning solution came from Thatcher Cardon, a physician and Air Force officer, who came up with the idea of M-PATS.  His device covers the perineum, the area between the anus and the scrotum or vulva, and is a small air lock pouch that’s located around the crotch.  He used minimally invasive surgery to power his idea, and NASA will now use his prototype to test and implement in new spacesuits.

In 2016, NASA had a whopping budget of 19.3 billion dollars.  You may ask, what can an organization do with 19.3 big ones?  When big chunks of expensive metal are going into space, NASA ensures through a multitude of training and tests that the brightest and most capable people operate their spaceships.  In order to perform to the best of their abilities, comfort is important to an astronaut.  Bowel movements and urinating are vital processes that occur a daily basis in our daily lives.  In space, there is no exception to that rule.  Astronauts wear “high-tech diapers,” which are essentially high-absorbent pads that line the bottom of the spacesuit that only lasted for a day.  While a spacesuit is generally used for in-space activities, NASA is trying to combat the unforeseeable and take precautionary measures.

“Bowel movements and urinating are vital processes that occur a daily basis in our daily lives.  In space, there is no exception to that rule.”

Asking for help is a sign of strength.  Coupled with a monetary prize, NASA did just that.  They understand that there intelligent members of society around them that could help solve the poop problem.