Space suits are notoriously heavy, cumbersome, and uncomfortable. To make matters worse, many upcoming manned space missions will force astronauts to stay in these suits for days at a time. And one of the simplest biological realities is also one of the biggest problems: What do astronauts do when they gotta go?
Designing an in-suit space toilet is complicated when it comes to space, where human excrement is unconstrained by the rules of gravity. It can also be dangerous; waste that isn’t properly dealt with can be life-threatening to astronauts caught in an emergency. Right now, astronauts use diapers (a rather low-tech solution for billion-dollar space missions), but NASA knew there had to be a better way. Enter the Space Poop Competition, announced in October 2016. The open competition asked entrants to conceive of a design that could handle urination, menstruation, and defecation for an astronaut cooped up in a suit for six days. All in all, about 20,000 people from around the world answered the call, submitting more than 5,000 ideas to help astronauts poop. And this week, the agency announced the three winning designs.
The $15,000 first prize went to Thatcher Cardon, a family physician and in-flight surgeon for the U.S. Air Force based at the Laughlin Air Force Base in El Rio, Texas. “It seems like everybody has been interested in the problem peripherally,” Cardon says. “Even in medical school we studied it a little bit. But I never imagined that I’d be this involved.” He envisioned his design while lying on his couch, and prototyped it with help from his family, sourcing materials from craft stores, thrift shops, and hardware stores. To get his ideas across, he hacked together prototypes using everyday materials, like tubes, hoses, plastic bottles, and springs.
Cardon’s design does something novel: It removes the waste from the space suit completely. It’s an airlock hatch, located on the crotch of the space suit along with what he calls an “introducer” system—an easy way to insert objects into the suit that can handle waste elimination. That includes an inflatable bedpan, a pee cup connected to a suction bag, a more traditional diaper, and a hygiene wand for whatever’s left over.
Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, or even use Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for MakeCode, CircuitPython, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.
Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell with Google Hangouts On-Air is every Wednesday at 7:30pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.
Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!
Maker Business — A list of companies owned by Amazon. It’s big.
Wearables — Stitch marks
Electronics — Capacitor ESR
Biohacking — Vitamin-C + Gelatin for Accelerated Recovery
Python for Microcontrollers — Python snakes its way to the STM32, Serpente, and more!
Adafruit IoT Monthly — Adafruit IO Updates, RGB Stream Deck Message Panel, and more
Microsoft MakeCode — Welcome to the MakeCode Newsletter!
No comments yet.
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.