After years of shooting Earth's smartest guinea pigs into space, putting humans on the moon, and admitting astronaut ice cream is a big fat lie, NASA in its wisdom recently asked ordinary citizens like you and me: Tell us a better way to fight poop than adult diapers and we'll give you $30,000. Finally, we can take a look at the winning ideas.
"As astronauts travel farther into the solar system, explorers may need to remain in their suits for several days on their way back to Earth in the event of an emergency situation," NASA explained in a statement announcing the winners. "This challenge sought solutions for fecal, urine, and menstrual management systems for the crew’s launch and entry suits."
Of course, the scientific geniuses of this noble country obliged. More than 19,000 undoubtedly brilliant competitors submitted more than 5,000 undoubtedly brilliant ideas to the Space Poop Challenge, all vying for the $15,000 grand prize and the lower tiers offered by the NASA Tournament Lab.
Hugo Shelley came in third for his SWIMSuit -- a zero-gravity underwear made for six-day use. The current NASA diapers only last for a few hours or so. Wearing one for almost a week would surely economize unnecessarily wasted mission hours. The concept -- which looks kinda like UnderArmour compression shorts -- won him $5,000.
Team Space Poop Unification of Doctors (SPUDs) took second place and $10,000, for their Air-powered Spacesuit Waste Disposal System, which uses air to push waste from off the astronaut's body to disposal section of the suit.
And Thatcher Cardon took home the grand prize of $15,000 -- for his MACES Perineal Access & Toileting System (M-PATS) -- a system inspired by minimally invasive surgery that "can do some amazing things in very small openings."
Exactly the kind of scientific thinking we need more of. Congrats to all the winners. NASA's going to put all their ideas through testing of course, and later incorporate the best results into its spacesuits. Seriously, poop jokes aside, Kirstyn Johnson, a spacesuit engineer at NASA pointed out in a statement: "The ability to protect the crew while in a pressurized suit for such an emergency situation is one that has never before been tested in space and is critical for crew health." Shit gets real out there.
While Thrillist was unable to secure additional comment from NASA on this story, we were definitely, absolutely, positively able to track down noted fecal expert, linguistics enthusiast, and science man Maryland State Senator Clay Davis -- last seen on The Wire -- who had this to say when presented with the hot, fresh ideas: