Everybody poops. Even astronauts. And when you live in a couple metal boxes 200 miles above the Earth, poop can be a real problem. The UN is launching a satellite full of excrement-eating bacteria that'll do some pooping of their own, powering a fuel cell as they go.
The UN doesn't normally launch satellites; this is actually their first one. It's called UNESCOSat, and it's designed to promote science education and international cooperation. Among the several payloads is an experiment from the Florida Institute of Technology that will try feeding astronaut poop to a special kind of bacteria to see if they'll be able to create hydrogen. If they can, the hydrogen will be used to generate electricity in a fuel cell, producing drinkable water at the same time. Tasty.
Researchers want to see if the bacteria, called Shewanella MR-1, are just as hungry for poop up in space as they are here on Earth. The experiment is scheduled to launch in 2011, and will spend up to five years in orbit. If things work out, bacterial power systems might become standard issue on the International Space Station, making sure that astronaut waste doesn't go to, you know, waste.
Via Fast Company