Caitlin Moffett

Repurposing Exhaled CO2 for Spacecraft

Presented By Caitlin Moffett , University of Arizona (Graduate Student)

Life support is a vital component in any manned space mission, and some waste production is a small price to pay for keeping astronauts safe and healthy in space. Historically, life support on the ISS and other manned spacecraft have produced a methane by-product that is vented to space. Honeywell’s methane pyrolysis reactor now provides the opportunity for this waste methane to be reclaimed, transforming it into useful hydrogen and a solid carbon composite material that will grow in quantity with the progression of a space mission. If a viable application can be found for this carbon, it will greatly lower waste and raise the efficiency of the life support system as a whole. Our team, tasked with the challenge of finding such an application, has designed a storage box constructed out of the carbon material with little additional resources. It will be constructed out of 6 square carbon pieces adhered to a fabric base, which can be folded up to create a cube shaped container.

We have endeavored to create a design that succeeds on multiple levels: it not only employs the carbon material in an application that is appropriate to the spacecraft environment and can be used by astronauts on a trip home from Mars, but can also make use of other waste products such as astronaut clothing that has reached the end of its designated wearable lifetime. The box design is simple, collapsible for easy storage, and easily scalable depending on intended use. With this design, it is our hope that the first astronauts to walk on Mars will be able to store experimental samples, food, and other items in carbon boxes, produced while breathing into a life support system that is nearly zero-waste.