Can Astronauts Propel Themselves Using Farts in Space?

My favorite technology news blog has posted another post!

Farts are an fascinating quirk of nature when you consider it. (Admit it: You’ve thought deeply about farts in your life, at some point in life). After all, we are basically speaking about a putrid gas that escapes out of your butthole on command. It sounds so sci-fi!

Farts. The butt of many immature jokes.

Flatulence is flammable—as everyone knows due to those YouTube videos stupid of people lighting their farts on fire. That’s because farts are made-up of methane (along with nitrogen, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide gases).

Considering farts are actually explosive: Is it possible to propel your self in space via some (or lots of) flatulence?

While this question could appear ridiculous to some, it is really something that scientists have considered. Seriously! In a Reddit AMA (ask me anything), gastronaut astronaut Chris Hadfield admitted to experimenting with astronaut fart propulsion. (I’m certain the Canadian Space Agency could not be more pleased with his extremely vital research).

reddit fart - wooden frame

Okay, so we all know that flatulence can’t exactly accelerate a human at great speeds, however that does not mean that we can’t theoretically harness the power of farts for propulsion.

“Flatulence would propel an astronaut ahead very slowly, however should you used the gas as fuel for a combustion reaction the astronaut may get going a lot faster,” says physics doctoral student Matt (Reddit user VeryLittle) in a post in Reddit’s science subreddit (group).

Farts are basically rocket fuel, however you would need tons and tons of it (much more than probably the most ravenous Taco Bell eater is able to produce in a lifetime) to propel your self via space by farting.

Interestingly, astronauts do fart more in space, however it’s not sufficient to generate any significant thrust.

According to a flatulence study (yes, scientists study that in detail too), a typical individual releases around 1 liter of gas per day. That’s roughly the same size as the water bottle below and Matt estimates that the fart would weigh around half a gram:

1 litre bottle

And he estimates that the velocity at which a fart leaves your butthole is around 1 meter per second.

To determine how far you would travel—assuming an average day’s farts—Matt put those numbers in this equation:

(1 m/s)(0.5 grams) = 0.0005 kg m/s

Basically, he concludes that you would barely move at all.

“The astronaut will now be traveling 7.7×10-6 m/s forward, which is only about a thousand times quicker than hair grows. If an astronaut in space farted each day, it will take ten thousand years for him to get up to a normal highway velocity.”

But if there was someway to harness the fart’s power, by exploding it backwards like a rocket to push you ahead, then the astronaut may theoretically reach much higher speeds:

methane cow collection
Methane from Cows’ is collected in pink bags, to be used elsewhere later

“If we had one of those fancy gas backpacks that they put on cows to harvest the methane from their farts and a jetpack to burn it, then this gasoline could be sufficient to get a very flatulent astronaut up to highway velocity in a day.”

farting cow jet
Ready for takeoff

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