Read More: NPR
On Wednesday morning, NASA rewarded five members of the public — two doctors, a dentist, an engineer and a product designer — for their creative ideas for how to poop in a spacesuit. Yes, it sounds a little bit funny. But unmet toilet needs could have life or death consequences for an astronaut in an emergency situation. That's why thousands of people spent tens of thousands of hours on the "Space Poop Challenge," brainstorming, modeling, prototyping and number-crunching to come up with a crowd-sourced solution to the problem of human waste in a spacesuit. Currently, astronauts on spacewalks rely on diapers, which is a feasible solution for only a few hours at a time. As we explained in November, NASA is imagining a situation where an astronaut is stuck in a spacesuit for days — like during an emergency on future Orion missions, which could take astronauts far from Earth. The super-portable-bathroom solution has to work quickly, easily, in micro-gravity, without impeding movement, for both men and women, for solid and liquid waste. It can either store waste in the suit or expel it. And it has to be comfortable ... for up to six continuous days. Since the project launched on the HeroX crowdsourcing site in October, nearly 20,000 people, from all over the world, submitted more than 5,000 ideas. They were competing for a total of $30,000 in prizes. The winning solution came from Thatcher Cardon, an Air Force officer, family practice physician and flight surgeon. He says his design was inspired by minimally invasive surgical techniques — and a strong desire not to store the poop.