Innovation Future Specialist
Inspired by the NASA open innovation Space Poop challenge. Many solutions (5000!) were submitted to figure out how an astronaut goes to the toilet in their space-suit and gets the waste removed. However, the best solution is... Astrobots. This means that astronauts are not needed for risky extra-vehicular activities (EVAs). Instead, they can stay indoors and take a dump in comfort.
Okay it is over to you astrobot, I have to take a dump.
This solves the poop challenge, EVA issues, and other associated difficulties with wearing a restrictive space-suit. Stay in the space-station; use virtual reality (VR) to control a robot, an astrobot.
This solves the loo problem and all the other space suit problems in one go. Astrobots can be used in space, in orbit, on the Moon, during an inter-planetary mission, or on Mars.
Robots have advanced to a very capable level now. For example, Boston Dynamics have a range of well known robots, as do Japanese companies, and of course NASA itself. The da vinci surgery robot demonstrates that very precise movements can be made, with the removal of hand tremor.
Military drones demonstrate that "robots" can be remotely controlled (from thousands of miles away).
There might be additional challenges for robot operations in the vacuum of space. Innovation Future Specialist can help.
Virtual reality is already adequate to this task, and will get much more advanced. For full immersion [if required] the astronaut might wear a VR suit.
The solution is to send a robot out in to space to conduct all of the activities of the astronaut. The robot is near to the astronauts and within real-time communications range.
The astronaut controls the robot remotely via wireless communications, from the safety and relative comfort of their space-station or rocket.
To give the astronaut full awareness of the situation the robot is in, the data from the robot's sensors is communicated back. This can include vision, night vision, spectral analysis, grip strength, resistance torque (e.g. undoing a tight nut), and more.
The astronaut experiences this data via life like virtual reality technology. They can see everything the robot sees, and pan and zoom. They can feel the tightness of a nut via haptic feedback. It is like being where the robot is in every sense.
This gives astronauts a better and safer experience, tasks can be paused, and there is no maximum limit to how long an extra-vehicular task needs to take. Perfect.
Further this gives astronauts abilities they do not normally have. They can benefit from the abilities of robots: enhanced optics, strength, and high precision in movements (like currently used in surgery with a da vinci robot).
Space suits would only be required for emergencies.
This is probably the future of most extra-vehicular space based tasks. The benefits are very significant to life in space.
See more articles about the future in the Innovation Future Gallery.
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