In 2018, a man and a woman will travel to Mars in 501 days as part of the “Inspiration Mars” mission. The greatest threat the duo will face is not aliens – it’s radiation from cosmic rays. However the control team and spacecraft engineers have a solution – they plan to use human waste to line the spacecraft’s walls, creating a protective shield.

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The Inspiration Mars mission plans to send a two-person American crew – a man and a woman – on a fly-by mission to Mars and back to Earth in 501 days. Taber MacCallum, a member of the team funded by multimillionaire Dennis Tito, said that the astronauts could simply place solid and liquid human waste products into bags within the hull to be used as a radiation shield.

“It’s a little queasy sounding, but there’s no place for that material to go, and it makes great radiation shielding,” MacCallum said to New Scientist. “Dehydrate them as much as possible, because we need to get the water back. Those solid waste products get put into a bag (and then) put right back against the wall.” “Food is going to be stored all around the walls of the spacecraft, because food is good radiation shielding,” he added.

Another radiation shield concept that has been discussed is  Water Walls, which would combines life-support and waste-processing systems with radiation shielding. In addition to blocking radiation, water shielding has another benefit, in that you can drink it. The Water Wall concept could also be used  in partnership with polyethylene bags, so that osmosis can process clean drinking water from urine and feces.

On a mission where free space is a luxury, everything and anything that can be recycled for the good of the astronauts will be a major benefit. Here’s hoping the Inspiration Mars mission meets its 2018 deadline.

+ Inspiration Mars

Via New Scientist

Images: Inspiration Mars and USDAgov