by Graham Pierrepoint
It’s not been too long since NASA ran a public competition to find new ideas on how to best dispose of astronauts’ fecal waste while on long-term missions in the blackness of space – and while the competition has long since ended and will hopefully help scientists to build a safe and reliable solution, there are further problems at stake which may be building up. The latest issues facing astronauts going into deep space concerns that of nutrition – when space explorers need to take on daily nutrients, how can they do so without eating? The answer, it would seem, is perhaps a little grim for some tastes.
A research team is reportedly looking into ways for astronaut urine to be converted into certain nutrients and materials – in particular, according to ZME Science, omega 3 fatty acids and plastic. The team is thought to be looking at ways for the bodies of those going up into the heavens to actively produce nutrients and materials themselves which may be used en route. This means that astronauts could be able to produce a constant supply of material and nutrient to build the necessities that they would otherwise be unable to carry with them. Some journeys in deep space, even with a limited craft or two at their disposal – could take space explorers years at a time – meaning that renewable resources must be sought as an effective solution.
It’s bizarre to think that resources could get so sparse – but up in space, where the necessity to travel as light as possible is all too great, it’s important for a solution to be sought in order for a renewable and constant source of nutrients and materials to be readily available for even the longest of missions.
Missions to far flung planets such as Mars and beyond are limited, of course, by human life – we may never make it to Alpha Centauri, a distant star where intelligent life could be thriving – and even when it comes to our closest planet neighbor, Mars, we need to be able to prolong life and practicality as much as possible. If this means converting urine into sustainable products and resources, then that’s what it means – while the astronaut life may not always be glamorous, it is if nothing else consistently interesting! If you have designs on going to space – be prepared to have your pee be more important than you give it credit for.