Poop shield could protect Mars space tourists
The interplanetary tourists who aim to fly by Mars on a private space mission may be protected from dangerous cosmic rays by a poop shield.
Taber MacCallum, part of the team planning the Mars mission, which is partially funded by the multimillionaire Dennis Tito, recently told the New Scientist about the gross-but-practical plan.
"It's a little queasy sounding, but there's no place for that material to go, and it makes great radiation shielding," McCallum told the magazine.
Cosmic rays, radiation that travels throughout the universe and is caused by exploding stars, are a major source of danger for astronauts.
But human waste is an excellent shield, MacCallum said, so it makes sense to dehydrate the material and lay it against the walls of the space capsule as protection.
Because space is so precious aboard the flight, the system would line the walls with water bags that would be replaced with waste bags as the water is used.
Food could also be a source of protection and serve to block cosmic rays.
But as the New Scientist reports, details of the plan remain to be ironed out: when a system that dehydrates waste was tested on the last space shuttle flight, it didn't work as well in microgravity as was hoped.
The proposed mission wouldn't launch until January 2018; the couple would fly by Mars in August, and spend 16 months total in space.
Kate Allen is the Star's science and technology reporter. Find her on Twitter at @katecallen.