Popular Science

We might need to turn our poop into food to survive in space

Astronaut poop could help create a weird yet nutritious bacterial Vegemite.



Astronaut Chris Cassidy during a spacewalk on the ISS.

Don’t panic. No one is suggesting that astronauts on long-term space missions should actually snack on their own bodily waste. But just as the spacefarers’ urine is recycled back into drinking water, their feces may soon have a role in keeping them fed. A new study published in Life Sciences in Space Research suggests a process by which biological waste could help fuel the production of (slightly) more savory foodstuffs.

As scientists look beyond life and entertain trips to Mars and beyond, one of the most obvious problems to solve is finding a food source. It takes about nine months to get to the red planet if you go when orbits are most optimally aligned, so even if we went there and turned right back around (which would never be the case) we’d need a year-and-a-half’s worth of food for the whole crew. We could certainly bundle up that many for the road, but rocket fuel is so costly that any extra poundage is best avoided. If we could create a system that allowed astronauts to continuously farm fresh food, it could potentially take up less space on the craft—and provide them with a reliable source of nutrition even after they landed on a new world.

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