It’s 2018. We have no flying cars. No hoverboards. No holodecks. The good news is there might be a potential breakthrough on the horizon. Scientists are working on a way for astronauts to eat their own poop.
The future is now!
The thought of recycled feces might not sound that appetizing, but it could very well be the next step in deep space exploration. One of the main challenges facing a trip to Mars and beyond is where to put the food. In space, it’s not like you can just pull over and scavenge for space-berries and storing enough food for long voyages would take up too much space and increase fuel cost.
That’s why a team at Pennsylvania State University is attempting to develop a way of using microbes to quickly break down solid and liquid human waste. The research team has also developed a method of minimizing the chance of any pathogens developing (something you want to avoid when playing with poop). The remaining substance could be the food of future astronauts.
Just pack a ton of ketchup.
“It’s a little strange, but the concept would be a little bit like Marmite or Vegemite where you’re eating a smear of ‘microbial goo’,” explains one of the researchers, geoscientist Christopher House.
Okay, calling it “goo” does not make it sound any more appetizing.
The microbes break down waste using anaerobic digestion, a process very similar to the way humans digest food. The team found they could grow a different microbe with the methane produced during the digestion process. The microbial growth could then be used to produce a type of food for astronauts, an endless supply of food (as long as astronauts keep visiting the toilet).
The only question is, who’s going to be the first to try it? I’d hate to be the intern in that research project.
“Alright Greg, does this poop taste any better? It’s nacho flavored! Greg, where are you going.”