Pooping in Space
As children, many of us pretended to be astronauts, flying around our living rooms with boxes on our heads, “To the moon,” we’d shout! And, thanks to Bruce Willis, we all wanted to save the world with Ben Affleck as our number two. But did you ever think about the not-so-enchanting sides of being an astronaut? How on Earth do you poop in space? With this weighing heavily on my clogged mind, I took years of training, strapped up my spacesuit, flew to the moon, and dropped a deuce... just kidding, but I did do some research, and here is what I found.
The two men were free to poop with the view of Earth in the far distance
Space waste, as the NASA pro Megan Gannon from The Scoop on Space Poop calls it, has been somewhat of a plague for them since 1961 when astronaut Alan Shepard, of Freedom 7, was about to embark on his 34 hour-flight to space. Like most things we do on Earth, the shuttle was late for departure and Mr. Shephard had to urinate. This proved to be a challenge, considering Alan was already strapped in and prepared for takeoff. Letting him release the floodgates in his spacesuit was out of the question; there were just too many important electronics and signals coming from inside his robotic suit that any water damage could be fatal to the outcome of his mission. Regardless of the repercussions, what did they let him do? Pee in his spacesuit; causing tremendous harm and eventually resulting in him having to take over manual controls of his shuttle.
Fast forward eight years…Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are about to takeoff to the moon on Apollo 11. Not a whole lot had been done to improve the shituation for the astronauts onboard the shuttle. If a little rogue urine could plague an entire flight, imagine the damage that floating fecal matter could cause. And so, with the brilliant minds that work at NASA, they found the perfect solution to this crappy scenario. Armed with thick baggies and adhesive strips, the two men were free to poop with the view of Earth in the far distance. If only it were as pleasant as it sounded. Instead of the normal spritz, poop, flush, and leave that we are accustomed to, these men had a to do some deep digging; if you’re catching my drift. What would take the average human minutes to do, took Buzz and Neil 45 minutes each time! The elegance of space is a little mangled when imagining grown men manually removing their feces by hand, keeping it contained in their baggies, and then massaging germicidal paste into their waste.
Space.com Link Enter my space-time continuum, and we’ve now arrived in 2008. $19 million later, and after a series of letdowns surrounding space toilets, NASA purchased a Russian space commode. This small seat and four-inch hole was built for pooping only. Each astronaut gets his or her own funnel for peeing. Before sitting upon the space throne, astronauts must take a space toilet training class, or a glorified potty-training.
“Now that NASA is going beyond low earth orbit into lunar orbit and beyond, we have to figure out ways to keep astronauts alive and healthy for many days after a major malfunction such as loss of vehicle pressure,” explained astronaut Richard Mastracchio in a NASA video about the Space Poop Challenge. The brilliant minds at work for NASA have taken to the streets for ideas and entries from anyone who might have an idea on how to improve pooping in space. The winning idea could be worth up to $30,000; that’s out of this world!...sorry!
Poo~Pourri: One small step for mankind, one giant leap for pooping in space.