Doctor who won NASA contest sees diaper product opportunity

Cutline: Col. Thatcher Cardon, 47th Medical Group commander at Laughlin Air Force Base, won a NASA “Space Poop Challenge,” beating out 5,000 others who submitted a way to manage human waste in a space suit.
Source: Air Force/Airman 1st Class Benjamin Valmoja

An Air Force doctor who won a NASA contest for a spacesuit poop problem filed for a patent and plans to go to a conference next month where his smart idea could come closer to reality.

It turns out the solution he developed might have applications other than in space.

"One part that might have some application on Earth is the diaper solution," Air Force Col. Thatcher Cardon, commander of the 47th medical group at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas, told Air Force Times in an interview published this week. "One of the problems with diapers is once you have them on, you can't take them off with the suit."

Cardon told the Times he planned to speak about the idea at an incontinence engineering conference in April. "We'll see what people think," he said.

Last month, Cardon won a $15,000 first-place prize in NASA's "Space Poop Challenge," which was launched to find how to best manage bodily waste needs in a spacesuit for someone wearing it for nearly a week.

Cardon came up with an in-suit waste management system that allows human waste to be collected through an access port on the garment. His system requires the person to rub a wand-like tool fitted with a fabric over the waste area.

Entrants were asked to find a way for astronauts to manage urine, fecal and menstrual needs in a spacesuit for up to 144 hours, or six continuous days.

Cardon's in-suit waste management system could used in an emergency situation in space such as a moon mission where there's a loss of cabin pressure that requires the crew to put on space suits for about a week.

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