Like their earthbound counterparts, astronauts make junk in their day-to-day lives, but different us; they can’t just bag it and abscond it on the curb.
"If NASA doesn't do something about it, then the spacecraft will become like a landfill, with the astronauts totaling waste to it all day."
Each tile is just over a centimeter broad, roughly 20 cm in diameter — which is a bit bigger than a normal compact disk — and made from about a day’s worth of rubbish.
Mary Hummerick, another microbiologist working on the project, sees possible in all the plastic packaging the astronauts discard.
If the plastic content of the disks is high enough, "they could really shield radiation," she said. NASA’s website explains that the strips could be arranged to shield the astronaut’s sleeping region or strengthen the spacecraft’s "storm shelter."
If all goes as intended, the end product could be particularly significant for crews living in space for up to two years — which is, NASA points out, the anticipated period of a Mars mission.
"If the instance and temperature tests seem to be achieving what we want, we'll go to long-range storage space testing," said Hummerick.