Because you can’t shoot trash into space if space is where you’re going.
While an actual manned voyage to Mars probably won’t be happening any time soon, NASA has recently gotten a little more serious about working out the logistics of a such a trip. They’ve recently been workshopping ideas of how to transport and maintain nutritious food for astronauts, alongside the baseline question of developing an engine that could get them to the red planet in a timely fashion.
One question that their mulling over has to do with trash. Humans, wherever we go, have a tendency to produce a lot of waste, and when you’re in the dead of space, waste isn’t really something you can afford. As such, NASA has launched a contest to source new ideas for deep-space recycling. The “Waste to Base” challenge encourages participants to think of ways to recycle not just miscellaneous trash and packing materials, but human waste like carbon dioxide and… the other stuff.
“This challenge is all about finding ways to convert waste into base materials and other useful things, like propellant or feedstock for 3D printing,” the challenge website explains.
Open for submissions! NASA's Waste to Base Materials Challenge seeks ideas to convert waste streams into propellants and other useful materials. Each winning idea will be awarded $1000USD. Register here 👉 https://t.co/dOBLmR3JvG pic.twitter.com/3X8tSLYwzr
— HeroX (@Iamherox) January 20, 2022
“The challenge is looking for your ideas for how to convert different waste streams into propellant, and into useful materials, that can then be made into needed things and cycled through multiple times. While a perfectly efficient cycle is unlikely, ideal solutions will result in little to no waste.”
NASA is accepting entries until March 15, with winners announced the following month. Those with the best ideas can win cash prizes of up to $1,000.