The human waste from the International Space Station and ALL space missions have always been a headache for rocket scientists since the inception of the space program. The practice of all space programs was to dump the astronaut’s err, dump, together with all other trash. These are sent back to earth to burn upon reentry into the atmosphere. With so many countries now making the race to space, as well as the advent of space travel, we will soon see many more of these falling “stars”. Or will we?
Hopefully not, if NASA will have its way. It is funding research to turn turd into rocket fuel. “The idea was to see whether we could make enough fuel to launch rockets and not carry all the fuel and its weight from Earth for the return journey,” according to Pratap Pullammanappallil of agricultural and biological engineering at the University of Florida Gainesville. “Methane can be used to fuel the rockets. Enough methane can be produced to come back from the moon,” he adds.
He and his research team figured out how to extract 290 liters (76.6 gallons) of methane per day from the waste of each astronaut or cosmonaut using anaerobic digestion. Aside from this, the system could also recover 757 liters (200 gallons) of water each year from the waste.
These are all exciting developments in the processing of excrement. These will help reduce the payload of the rockets we send into space, hopefully making space travel less expensive and allowing space missions to carry other stuff.
If that weren’t enough, the results of the research will find much use back here on earth. Just like Tang was a product of rocket science, we could see the product of this research at households soon. We can even probably call it Dang.
In the meantime, the researchers are working to bring these digesters into space. If they figure out how to do so, then maybe crap will stop being nothing but a lot of crap but become something to give us a boost.