Future human missions to the Red Planet and the voyage back to Earth are expected to take two to three years.

During those lengthy sojourns, significant amounts of waste will be generated.

A crowdsourcing competition is seeking innovative approaches to repurpose, recycle, and reprocess the waste generated onboard to enable mission sustainability.

HeroX is a platform and open marketplace for crowdsourced solutions and had launched the competition: “Waste to Base Materials Challenge: Sustainable Reprocessing in Space”

The challenge

NASA’s Waste to Base Challenge asks the larger community to provide inventive approaches to waste management and conversion in four specific categories:

  • Trash
  • Fecal waste
  • Foam packaging material
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) processing

“Since the logistics of supply ships to support a Mars mission are very difficult, the spacecraft needs to be as efficient and self-sufficient as possible,” explains a HeroX statement.

Any humans to Mars expedition will require spacecraft as efficient and self-sufficient as possible.
Credit: Bob Sauls – XP4D/Explore Mars, Inc. (used with permission)

“This challenge is all about finding ways to convert waste into base materials and other useful things, like propellant or feedstock for 3D printing. The challenge is looking for your ideas for how to convert different waste streams into propellant and into useful materials that can then be made into needed things and cycled through multiple times,” the HeroX statement continues.

Although a perfectly efficient cycle is unlikely, ideally, competitive solutions will result in little to no waste.

NASA could eventually integrate all the different processes into a robust ecosystem that allows a spacecraft to launch from Earth with the lowest possible mass.

Prize money

Multiple winners in each category will each be awarded a prize of $1,000. Additionally, judges will recognize four ideas as “best in class,” each with a prize of $1,000. A total prize purse of $24,000 will be awarded.

The prize is open to anyone aged 18 or older participating as an individual or as a team. Individual competitors and teams may originate from any country, as long as United States federal sanctions do not prohibit participation (some restrictions apply).

For more information, and to accept the challenge, visit:



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