WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A team of NASA-funded researchers from Penn State University has found a method to turn human poop safely and fast into something edible and nutritious.
- The process was discovered while finding a way for astronauts to be able to recycle everything, even their own poop.
- NASA may use the new method for a long space mission to Mars.
A process to convert human poop into an edible paste was discovered by researchers at Penn State. It involves combining human poop with microbes, which break down the waste to develop a paste mixture that is safe for NASA astronauts to eat.
Missions to planets like Mars will take months or maybe even years. NASA has to consider a lot of things like fuel costs. It means the more items you put on board a spacecraft can increase the amount of force required and the amount of fuel that you bring on board.
Mars is about 54 million kilometers away. With this utmost distance, astronauts may need to recycle everything they have on board, including their own poop.
“It’s a little strange,” Christopher House, a professor of geosciences at Penn State University admitted. “But the concept would be a little bit like Marmite or Vegemite where you’re eating a smear of ‘microbial goo.’”
The Penn State team took their inspiration from our waste management here on our own planet.
“Anaerobic digestion is something we use frequently on Earth for treating waste,” House explained. It’s an efficient way of getting mass treated and recycled. What was novel about our work was taking the nutrients out of that stream and intentionally putting them into a microbial reactor to grow food.”
Finding a new way to effectively and safely recycle some of the waste products can extremely reduce the costs associated with sending five astronauts out into Mars.
Eating their own poop isn’t what astronauts look forward to but this is not the first time they recycle human waste for consumption. NASA astronauts are already drinking their own urine on the International Space Station. Exceptionally effective scrubbers eliminate the toxins and convert it into potable water.
The experiment could be useful in the future but NASA is also considering other options such as hydroponics, growing plants in space without soil.
The problem with hydroponics, however, is that it’s very energy-intensive. Plants need heat, light, and water, which are essential on board a long-distance space voyage.
Source: Huffington Post