If you think space is all fun and games and Klingons, think again. Surviving in the inhospitable realm beyond the Earth’s atmosphere requires sacrifice. It might even require eating your own poop. At least if current research works out for the best.
NASA recently announced the recipients of eight grants intended to “study innovative, early stage technologies that will address high-priority needs of America's space program,” such as a journey to Mars. One of the university-led proposals selected to receive approximately $200,000 was from Clemson University, entitled, “Synthetic Biology for Recycling Human Waste into Food, Nutraceuticals, and Materials: Closing the Loop for Long-Term Space Travel.” In case you’re hoping that doesn’t mean what you think it means, the “loop” in question that they are hoping to close involves taking the things that come out of astronauts and putting them back into astronauts. Sounds like someone was inspired by The Human Centipede.
Before you focus on how gross the idea is, maybe take a moment to hear out NASA’s reasoning. They hope projects such as these can assist in “providing the means to produce food…on site at distant destinations using synthetic, biology-based approaches.” Because growing space lettuce is going okay, but it’s important to have a backup plan. Even if that backup plan doesn’t sound particularly appealing.
At the very least, maybe it will encourage astronauts to work even harder on that space lettuce thing.