NASA Wants Us to Eat Our Own Recycled Feces on Mars
NASA is ramping up their efforts to send the first manned mission to Mars, but it's no walk in the park getting there. In addition to the technology necessary to actually transport humans to the Red Planet, NASA needs to come up with methods of sustaining human life during the long, deep space trip, not to mention the time it takes to observe the planet once we get there. Now, NASA has awarded funding to eight new projects that will assist in getting us to Mars, including one proposal to turn human feces into a food source.
The eight proposals are all funded for approximately $200,000 per year for up to three years, and will each contribute to a different aspect of the technology necessary for deep space exploration.
Not much is known about the "poop" project thus far, except that the proposal is titled "Synthetic Biology for Recycling Human Waste into Food, Nutraceuticals, and Materials: Closing the Loop for Long-Term Space Travel." The study will be led by synthetic biologist Mark Blenner of Clemson University.
NASA believes that the project will assist on a potential mission to Mars by "providing the means to produce food, medical supplies and building materials on site at distant destinations using synthetic, biology-based approaches." That's one way of putting it.
But in all seriousness, this doesn't come as a surprise. Resource conservation is paramount during space travel, which is why astronauts on the ISS already drink their own recycled, filtered urine. Urine is just water if it's filtered, so any objection to it is a knee-jerk reaction. Similarly, feces are just processed food, so if we can find a way to turn it into a renewable food source, there's no reason we shouldn't. If scientists can devise an easy way to make feces edible, it could not only help us explore our universe, but could help with any future hunger problems here on Earth.
The other proposals included creating thin films for solar cells that can withstand the extremely high Martian temperatures, devising methods of thermal protection to protect manned spaceships from radiation and heat during entry into the Martian atmosphere, and engineering cyanobacteria for the production of lightweight materials, which will enable NASA to reduce the mass of spacecrafts by 40 percent.