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NASA Names Winners in Waste to Base Materials Challenge

NASA is making giant leaps in sustainability, innovating in areas like waste management that could have benefits in space and on Earth. To aid in this endeavor, NASA asked the public to help develop new ideas to convert waste into useful materials. The Waste to Base Materials Challenge: Sustainable Reprocessing in Space launched in January 2022 and NASA has now selected the winning solutions.

The challenge tasked participants with developing ideas to convert waste into useful resources, like propellant or raw materials for 3D printing. Out of 250 submissions, 24 solutions were chosen to share the $24,000 award. The winning ideas may also be included in the roadmap for future technology development work by NASA’s Logistics Reduction Project.

The solutions might also help inform planning and logistics for future human missions to Mars. These trips are expected to take two to three years round-trip. During these long trips, astronauts will generate a lot of waste, and unlike our crews aboard the International Space Station, they will not have the benefit of on-demand resupply missions to deliver supplies or remove trash. Some waste products may be repurposed into useful materials or turned into a gas which the crew could either use or vent into space, while others will need to be safely jettisoned, or ejected from the spacecraft. NASA sought ideas in these areas through two additional challenges: the Trash-to-Gas Ash Management Challenge and the Waste Jettison Mechanism Challenge.

“Future exploration missions will need to be sustainable,” said Steve Sepka, project manager for the Trash Compaction and Processing System at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, and a challenge manager for the Waste to Base Materials Challenge. “The ability to recycle, repurpose, or reprocess as much as possible will be critical for mission success. The innovative solutions we received from the community will no doubt help us prepare for these long-duration trips.”

The winners of the Waste to Base Materials Challenge are:

Best in Class

  • InnoPacking: Innovative Knitted Payload Packing – by Yownin Albert Leung – Team Moshirekarikuru
  • Nibbler: Tomorrow’s Objects with Today’s Trash – Lily-Rose Bacon – Lily-Rose Bacon’s team
  • 3D print with polymers, metals, ceramics, and ice – Sam Wechsler – Sam Wechsler’s team
  • Better Tomorrow – No Waste in Space – Ned Popovic

 Foam Packing Category

  • Packing material recycling – by Richard Deal
  • Recycling of packing foam, urine for hydroponics – by Jeff Morse
  • Orbeez in Orbit – Recover water, shock protection – Mitul Sarkar – Team Collab
  • Using PEEK as alternative foam packaging material – Estinamir Name
  • Creating building materials from Trash – Scott Wilcox

 Carbon Dioxide Category

  • Algae Oxygen Generator Mushrooms and Panels – John Wagoner – Team Mars Colony X
  • Lets get it done CO2 Processing – Jeff Dewe

 Trash Category

  • MAKE – BREAK – MAKE AGAIN – Plastic Recycling – Michael Ricciardi
  • Supercritical Fluid Carbon Dioxide Washing Machine – 翰琨 陳 – 翰琨 陳’s team
  • Fashion Your Feast: Clothing as Growing Medium – Amelia Rolf
  • Tracer-Based-Sorting for maximum water reuse – Mitul Sarkar – Team Collab

 Fecal Waste Category

  • Toilet to table. Mechanizing natural recycling – Craig Payne
  • Poop-Mushroom-Plant Cycle – Hylton Coxwell
  • Biota Chamber: Fecal Waste Converter – Maggie Coblentz – Maggie Coblentz’s team
  • Alkaline hydrolysis: biowaste become inert liquid – Olivier Weiller
  • Slingin’ Space Sludge! – Kathryn Krieger
  • Fire under Water – Bruce Onisko
  • What! Fecal waste can be used in this way? – 畊甫 陳 – 畊甫 陳’s team

Honorable Mentions

  • Pyrolysis: From Fecal Waste to Deep Space! – Dennis Stilwell – Team Stardust
  • Fecal Waste Composter – Dylan Smith
  • Methane as a heating element, without combustion – Ryan Blevins
  • Urea cream – Skin Care – Mitul Sarkar – Team Collab
  • Recycle Air in Space – Fuat Bahadir
  • Recycling Fecal Waste During Deep Space Missions – Ken & Judy O’Neill
  • Convert fecal waste to PLA – Aleksander Łukaszewicz

HeroX administered the challenge. The NASA Tournament Lab, part of the Prizes, Challenges, and Crowdsourcing program in the Space Technology Mission Directorate, managed the challenge. The program supports public competitions and crowdsourcing as tools to advance NASA research and development and other mission needs.

Learn more about opportunities to participate in your space program via NASA prizes and challenges at: