When I received a text from my older brother asking what I thought about a butte plug idea for astronauts, to help them poop while in their space suits without using their hands, the red flag went up. I thought "oh no, here we go again with the poop talk and innuendos." My brothers favorite subject.
We argued back an forth that an inflatable implant into the rectum could be uncomfortable and emotionally awkward for some. Also, what would happen if it fell out on the third day into their journey? Then what? And it didn't solve the other problem, urinating. All the simple pleasures that we take for granted here on earth are much more complex issues in space.
It became a real discussion. We had only 10 days left and worked day and night trying to solve a complex problem with a lot of moving parts. We'd talk about an idea and I would draw it up to show him how it could function. He was astonished at what I had presented in such short time and asked if I had created my drawings in auto cad. I laughed and reminded him that Le Corbusier never used auto cad and neither did Mies Van Der Rohe. He started sending me long technical notes via text with air pressure calculations and engaged me in conversations about mini-vac systems and how they worked. I was excited, overwhelmed and had to beg him to put everything into a google doc with links because it was extremely technical and I had to figure out how to streamline and simplify the story. We both have different working styles, but I appreciate how scientists work and how excited they get over a well crafted diagram.
Right brain meets left and this is where we netted out. It reminded me of our childhood, when we would play games like chess or backgammon and I would wait for him to get distracted before making my lethal move. Fun to watch how history repeats itself.
By December 20th, just one minute shy of the deadline, we uploaded our proposal to the NASA Space Poop Challenge. I wasn't sure if we were going to make it, but at that point I was more interested with our process and the discoveries we made. Our plausible concept to help astronauts poop in space with dignity and assurance left our hands and we both knew that all would go well in a hermetically sealed space suit for 144 hours.