NASA's "Space Poop Challenge" is paying for your thoughts on upgrading its crappy system

AP

If you're an innovative person with ideas about how best to deal with your bodily functions while wearing a spacesuit, then NASA wants to hear from you! The agency is currently soliciting entries in its aptly titled Space Poop Challenge, posted on the website HeroX, to "source a system that routes and collects human waste away from the body" for "fully-suited astronauts." 

What's more, it pays. The innovator with the winning design gets $30,000. 

Right now, astronauts use space toilets when they're out of their suits and diapers when they need to wear their spacesuits during launch and entry, but diapers are usually only worn for a matter of hours. They're also uncomfortable, and keeping waste next to your body for long periods of time can lead to irritation and infection.  

A child tries out a "space toilet" at an exhibition in Seoul, South Korea.Source: Lee Jin-man/AP
A child tries out a "space toilet" at an exhibition in Seoul, South Korea.  Lee Jin-man/AP

So NASA is soliciting designs for an in-suit solution for the unfortunate reality that even rocket scientists are human. But the solution has to meet a few qualifications — among them, the design must be able to be used inside a suit for six days straight and not require the astronaut to use their hands.

One of the biggest challenges to overcome in a design is figuring out how to get rid of the waste in zero gravity.

"There is no gravity to pull [waste] away when you release it,
NASA writes on its Space Poop Challenge website. "Menstrual fluid?  At least some of it will exit a woman's body.  You don't want that traveling around your suit. And don't forget, you can't always count on poop being solid, especially if you are up in space and nervous about the fact that your vehicle cabin has depressurized."

The winning solution will be awarded up to $30,000 and may wind up being implemented at some point over the next few years, so if you've got some spare time and a brilliant plan for pooping in outer space, now's your chance to make your mark on science.