NASA Has A Poop Problem (And We Know How To Fix It)
Space. The final frontier ... for your poop. Recently, NASA has disclosed what those of us on Earth long suspected: Shitting in space is no cakewalk. And the situation is only going to get worse. So much worse that they're asking people like me (and you, I guess) for help solving their shit issue. Shitssue, if you will.
The problem is this: Astronauts in the future may be faced with extended periods in which they are sealed in their suits for upwards of 144 hours, or six days. Currently, astronauts make use of diapers to stem the tide of disaster until they can get to a space toilet, but these are only reliable for about a day, and the risk of adult-onset diaper rash is high. NASA has tasked us with solving the six-day toilet problem in a way that doesn't require the removal of a spacesuit or the use of hands. This is the most daunting scientific inquiry into crapping in history.
The Space Poop Challenge, as it's literally called, tasks us with sourcing "a system that routes and collects human waste away from the body, hands-free, for fully suited astronauts." The prize for the best solution is $30,000 and the honor of having your crap idea implemented in space for real.
The most important issue one needs to consider when approaching this is that we're dealing not just with the backdoor, but the entire waste management system, which includes when Aunt Flo comes to visit Ladynauts. Most current methods of disposal -- the kind truckers use on long hauls, or maybe the crazy shit you use when playing extended bouts of online gaming -- rely on gravity to help us out. If you attach a funnel and piss, gravity will sort it right down the tube into the baggy you attached to your ankle. Not so in a zero-gravity situation, where NASA assures us that not only do solids and liquids like to float about, but they also have a tendency to bond with the closest surface area. Meaning your blob of floating piss is going to stick to your thigh like a sentient Jello mold trying to hug you.
You have a handful of potential options at this juncture. Maybe a mechanical application that mimics what a hand could do -- something that wipes and pulls away. Perhaps something entailing suction, which forces your goo in a certain direction. Potentially some kind of pressure attack wherein jets of water or air are used to remove unwanted fudgkins, but that's probably best combined with suction.
The spacesuit itself is pressurized, and we use this to our advantage. Air is being pumped in at all times, at a rate of 4.5 cubic feet per minute. 0.01 cubic feet per minute can be spared (safely) over a period of three minutes. We simply need to line the astro-pants with sensors that detect notable changes in temperature and moisture levels. Once you start flowing, the system pinpoints the location based on sensor activity and roars into action. To prevent the already-present airflow from rocketing poop up the back of your neck, a simple mesh layer at the waist and thighs will ensure your space sins remain in your demilitarized zone.
Basically, at this point you need a vacuum system to draw errant waste away from the body. A couple of strategically placed hoses, complete with mulching fan blades (just in case of high-fiber diets), activate and immediately pull waste in to funnel down the suit legs using the excess air flow, then electric fans force movement into a series of self-contained pockets able to hold the average amount of waste expected over six days, plus a little extra, with the option of the astronauts swapping out the sealed sacks over the six days when they have some spare time, in case they're worried about enchilada night on the Moon coming back to haunt them.
Another plan would require the use of small hobo monkeys -- think capuchins or tamarins of some kind. Little fellows that can stow away in your pants. These pants monkeys can be genetically modified to be poop fiends. When the time comes, they scurry up from their cozy homes at your ankles and go hog-wild in your crevasse, scouring the area clean, perhaps stowing any extra material in a little bindle for later before returning to their ankle apartment. If you have some whiz or a lady issue that needs dealing with, the monkeys act like squeegee kids and just buff that shit out. It's symbiosis at its most beautiful, it ensures cleanliness and happiness for all, and since NASA has a long history of launching monkeys into space, it should be super easy to pull off. Really, the only speed bump is funding a way to convince a monkey to eat poop for six days -- and of course, science will handle that part.
Is this the best solution for bathroom issues? Maybe not -- in an ideal world, I'd like to include some kind of moist wipe that gets drawn through your crack like a mezzaluna through a pizza, and maybe tiny robot hands that hold your ass checks apart to ensure sanitation of the bullseye and all surrounding areas so the monkeys don't miss anything. But this is only 2016. Maybe by 2025, we'll have robot ass-spreaders.
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