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Nasa is giving away £24,000 for a spacesuit design that can deal with human waste

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While space agencies busy themselves with the technology to take humans to Mars and beyond, it seems the simplest of issues need to be addressed.

One of the biggest concerns is how astronauts will deal with the call of nature extended spacewalks.

Nasa has launched a new competition for designs address the issue of human waste in space suits, which could mean the difference between life and death in emergency situations.

Crew members aboard the International Space Station are strapped into their space suits for take-off, landing and work outside the station.

On spacewalks, if they need to go, going back inside for a quick bathroom break is not an option.

The current solution using absorbent pads, which are a form of giant space nappy.

However, while effective, they are only designed for short stints outside of the space station.

In an emergency, crewmembers could be forced to stay suited up for days, rendering the pads useless and potentially leading to infection and even sepsis as waste builds up.

With sights set on long-haul missions to Mars and beyond this issue will prove critical beyond the relative safety of Earth’s orbit.

To address the issue, Nasa has opened up the challenge to the public, offering a $30,000 (£24,000) prize for the winning design.

This in-suit waste management system would ensure astronauts were able to remain in their pressurised suits on extended spacewalks or emergency situations, clearing the waste until they were able to reach safety or return to the a pressurised environment and a toilet.

Explaining the unique challenges of reduced gravity, Nasa gives an overview of how fluids and solids move differently in space,where things can move around more freely, before sticking to surfaces.

The agency says: 'You don’t want any of these solids and fluids stuck to your body for sic days.

'If you have ever taken care of a baby, you know how easy it is to get diaper rash.

'Left untreated, that can turn into a dangerous infection.'

An accompanying video spells out the basics of the challenge, in which the suit’s design will need to keep crew members alive and healthy for more than 144 hours.

Nasa astronaut Rick Mastracchio, who has spent time on the International Space Station, 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 technology could be deployed back on Earth as well, like other Nasa advances which have found use beyond the space station – including the compact cameras in our smartphones.

One possible example could be efficiently removing waste from bed-bound patients, helping to prevent infection.

Inventors have until 20 December to get their submissions in and the designs will be tested on Nasa mission over the next three to four years.

Currently, crew members on the ISS go to the bathroom using a suction system.

They use restraints to hold themselves to the seat, which ensures that no waste can escape while they sit down and go.

Some waste is reused on the for life-essential systems, while the rest is jettisoned to burn up in Earth's atmosphere.


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Muslim Global: Nasa is giving away £24,000 for a spacesuit design that can deal with human waste
Nasa is giving away £24,000 for a spacesuit design that can deal with human waste
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