When you've got to go, but you're out there in space, zipped up in a spacesuit, with no toilet in sight and a crew of other astronauts around, what do you do?
NASA has launched a contest for inventors to solve this uncomfortable issue, and promises to award $30,000 to the best "space poop" solutions.
Inventors have until December 20 to submit designs for a personalized waste-wicking system that will handle everything, hands-free, for a period of up to six days.
"The old standby solution consisted of diapers," said the description of contest details at www.herox.com/SpacePoop.
"However, the diaper is only a very temporary solution, and doesn’t provide a healthy/protective option longer than one day."
Sometimes, astronauts have to wait even longer. The two men and one woman who packed themselves into a Russian Soyuz space capsule last week had to wait two full days between launching from Kazakhstan and arriving at the International Space Station.
Currently, while at the International Space Station, astronauts use a toilet contraption that includes a vacuum and a tube to help evacuate1 fecal matter.
To urinate, they use a funnel2 attached to a hose that can be adapted for a sitting or standing3 position, and uses air to move urine away.
NASA vowed4 to award up to three $30,000 prizes for the most promising5 in-suit waste management systems.
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