from the another-in-our-ongoing-instructional-series dept.
NASA has a problem with #1 and #2 in space. What to do? Crowdsource it, in the form of a contest where anyone can submit a superior method. The contest just ended with NASA awarding $30,000 to the winning entries.
NASA astronauts' current method of waste disposal involves using a diaper during spacewalks and launch and entry, but these systems can be used only for about a day. The agency noted that it is difficult to design pooping systems for microgravity, where fluids and other things float. Maintaining good hygiene for these systems was among the primary challenges participants were tasked with solving.
In a description of the challenge, NASA said it was looking for technologies that have a "technical readiness level of 4" on its "ready for flight" scale, meaning that the solution could be tested in one year and be ready for space in three years. NASA added that it would consider solutions that would need more time if they were considered breakthroughs.
The goal is to use the system on a mission in the next three or four years, the challenge page said.
An earlier article about the problem: http://www.space.com/35576-space-poop-system-orion-deep-space.html.