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NASA Wants You to Help Astronauts Poop

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Pooping in space “isn’t glamorous, but it is necessary for survival,” an astronaut explains—yet it’s presenting quite a challenge for NASA. See, while the International Space Station has a pretty fancy toilet, an astronaut must wear a diaper during launch and landing activities or while spacewalking. But as NASA looks toward future missions in deep space, it’s also looking for a way for astronauts to relieve themselves while remaining in their space suits for up to six days, reports Time. That’s where you come in. The agency is offering a $30,000 prize in a “space poop challenge” if someone can create “a system inside a space suit that collects human waste for up to 144 hours and routes it away from the body, without the use of hands.”

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There are plenty of stipulations. For example, the system “needs to take no more than five minutes [to set up]” as an astronaut might be forced to jump into their suit quickly in an emergency, per Space.com. While such a challenge might seem humorous, a solution “could be the difference between life and death,” notes the contest website. “You don’t want any of these solids and fluids stuck to your body for six days,” NASA adds in a release. “Given enough time, infection, and even sepsis can set in,” says astronaut Rick Mastracchio in a video. Inventors have until Dec. 20 to submit their entries. NASA plans to test the top entries next year, with a solution executed within three years.

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