GBBP 122: Space Poop Challenge

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The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, Episode 122: Space Poop Challenge

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That got your attention, didn’t it?

This week, we’re chatting with Kirstyn Johnson, a spacesuit technology engineer with NASA, and besides totally geeking out about her job, we talk about the infamous Space Poop Challenge.

Listen, I’d be happy to tell you the scientific, official NASA name for this… but that’s actually what it is. It was officially called the Space Poop Challenge. And I’m not going to lie—that’s all kinds of awesome.

Recently, NASA has begun crowdsourcing some issues, either because of budget issues or because it has them stumped. And, let’s face it, asking the general public how to solve a poop problem is also a fairly solid way to drum up some publicity. So, I’m sure that factored into the decision.

In any case, the Space Poop Challenge sought a solution to how to manage human waste while in a spacesuit for an extended period of time. Six days (144 hours), to be exact. In case of a catastrophic emergency—during a long journey, like, say, to Mars—where an astronaut would be stranded inside a suit for multiple days, how could the suit be designed to manage his or her waste so as not to cause infection or… plug up the system?

You can learn more about the challenge and some of the winners over at the HeroX website, but today on the show, we’re chatting with Kirstyn Johnson about the challenge, the proposals they received, why NASA has chosen to crowdsource solutions, and how spacesuits have evolved since Mercury and Apollo.


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