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Space Poop Challenge: NASA Calls for Better Spacesuit Potty Systems

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NASA has initiated a "Space Poop Challenge," and is calling on innovators to come up with new designs for a spacesuit waste management system. (Image credit: NASA)

Sometimes the "call of nature" is really urgent – and if you're in a spacesuit, you can't easily rush to the bathroom. 

That's why NASA has created the "Space Poop Challenge." The agency is asking innovators to create fecal, urine and menstrual management systems for spacesuits, that would work for up to six days. Up to $30,000 in prize money is up for grabs.

NASA astronauts wear diapers to take care of their bodily needs while they're launching, landing or spacewalking. However, these diapers are only good for a few hours; sitting in poop, urine or menstrual fluid for more than that is bad for your health, and your backside, besides. [How to Pee in Space (and What to Do If the Toilet Breaks)]

"Future missions may require long-duration waste management for use by a pressurized suited crew member," NASA wrote in a statement on HeroX, a website where people or organizations can host incentive-based competitions. 

"In the event of cabin depressurization or other contingency, crew members may need to take refuge in their launch and entry suits for a long-duration: 144 hours," according to the statement. "The crew member will have less than 60 minutes to get into and seal their spacesuit. To ensure the crew member's safety, the solution [proposed system] needs to take no more than five minutes [to set up and integrate with the spacesuit]."

Further complicating the challenge is the requirement that the system work in microgravity, in a pressurized spacesuit. This means would-be designers need to contend with floating water and debris that everybody really, really wants to keep far away from human orifices or vital spacesuit systems. 

The new system will be designed for NASA's Modified Advanced Crew Escape Suit, an improvement on the orange spacesuit used for shuttle launches and landings. That suit is expected to be used by astronauts on the Orion spacecraft.

The submission deadline for the Space Poop Challenge is Dec. 20, and winners will be announced Jan. 31, 2017. You can see all the guidelines and rules on this website.

Follow Elizabeth Howell @howellspace, or @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook and Google+. Original article on

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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is pursuing a Ph.D. part-time in aerospace sciences (University of North Dakota) after completing an M.Sc. (space studies) at the same institution. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @HowellSpace.