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NASA Is Designing A Spacesuit Astronauts Can Poo In

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Madison Dapcevich

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Madison Dapcevich

Freelance Writer and Fact-Checker

Madison is a freelance science reporter and full-time fact-checker based in the wild Rocky Mountains of western Montana.

Freelance Writer and Fact-Checker

Astronauts in spacesuits currently poop in bags attached to their suit. Castleski/Shutterstock

Figuring out how to use the loo might top the list of the many challenges that come with living in space.

NASA scientists hope to fix that by developing a spacesuit that allows astronauts to – you guessed it – poo inside of it.

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The design is effectively a built-in toilet meant to replace the fancy diapers astronauts currently use, known as maximum absorbency garments (MAGs).

The Orion Crew Survival Systems Suits (OCSSS) will be used onboard NASA’s next-generation spacecraft Orion, which doesn’t have a toilet. The spacecraft could carry humans beyond low Earth orbit and around the moon for the first time in almost 50 years.

Astronauts typically don't stay in suits for more than 10 hours, after which point they use onboard toilets.

These suits, on the other hand, are part of an emergency poo plan in case the capsule loses pressure. They can be worn for up to six days and will hold fecal matter, urine, and menstrual fluid.

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"That is a really long time," NASA engineer Kirstyn Johnson told Space.com. “To live in a suit with all of your waste right by you for that long of a time, it could get gnarly pretty quickly."

Unfortunately, pooping in space is kind of gnarly anyway.

The new suits aren’t fully developed yet, but they will borrow some design features from those worn by astronauts who went to the moon – they didn’t even have toilets.  

If you're eating right now, you might want to stop before reading more.

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Apollo astronauts peed into “condom catheters” – a tube that fits over the penis like a condom and collects liquid by pulling it into a bag attached outside of the suit. For number twos, astronauts would defecate in poo bags built into their suits.

The longest Apollo mission was 12 days – a long time considering the methods were so bad that astronauts went on a high-protein diet so they didn’t have to go as often.

The new suits will have similar bags and catheters, which pose a challenge for women in space.

Pubic hair could affect the way a catheter-like system vacuums liquid, while menstruation (as if it wasn’t bad enough) poses a challenge to how the whole system works. Scientists say female astronauts could remove their hair and go on birth control, but NASA say they won't ask that of them

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Instead, they are working on a system similar to that used by female fighter pilots during long flights, which incorporates an external vacuum.

The next time you complain about public restrooms, just be thankful you don't have to go in a vacuum. Or a bag. Or a condom catheter. Or a leaky diaper.  


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spaceSpace and Physics
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  • nasa,

  • Orion,

  • poop,

  • spacesuit

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