On Earth, recycling technologies can utilize gravity to move waste when converting it to new materials or constituent molecules. In a microgravity environment, however, technology is the only way to transfer the waste for processing. The aim of this Challenge is to identify receptacle and feeder mechanisms suitable for a microgravity environment that can deliver mission waste for decomposition.
NASA has developed a high temperature reactor that can recycle astronaut waste into valuable substances (water, gases & solids). During housekeeping duties, the astronaut will place mission waste into the receptacle in preparation for recycling. The feeder mechanism will take the waste from the receptacle and deliver it to the hot reactor for decomposition.
For a mission lasting one year, a team of four astronauts would generate approximately 2,500 kilograms of waste. Astronaut logistical waste can contain a variety of products, including:
- Fabrics (from discarded clothing)
- Food packaging
- Human waste
- Hygienic wipes
- Low- & High-density plastics
- Nitrile gloves
Given the volume and variety of waste products, it is crucial that NASA identify mechanisms to facilitate mission recycling.
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