Saturday, December 21, 2013

Spacewalking, Drowning, Snub Wars

     C'mon, NASA, seriously?  You've been spec-ing space suits since before the Mercury program (and David Clarke and ILC/Dover [life support by Hamilton Standard] have been building them for about that long), and all of a sudden, you can't get the dehumidifier to work?

     Also, what's up with the TV talking heads looking all goggle-boggled and exclaiming, "Drown in a space suit?  Who'd'a thunk?"
     Gee, I dunno -- only everyone who wears glasses and has bundled up warm to go outdoors in winter?  Your exhaled breath is humid.  Very humid.  And that's even before we add in the water you lose perspiring.  No, the wonder is that anyone can even see through a spacesuit helmet faceplate, ever.

     (Also, "snorkel?"  And not "air tube?"  'Cos, see, really, snorkel implies there's a waterline for it to be above, not the case for blobs of water floating more-or-less randomly around in zero-G.)

     Just in case people have forgotten, there are some perfectly good* Russian space suits aboard ISS.  And a perfectly-good Russian airlock--  But wait, I forgot: these days, NASA won't let anyone under their control wear the Russian suits, or use the Russian airlock, and as for having a cosmonaut go out and remove the bad pump, why, heavens forfend!

     Near as I can determine, the  American, Russian and ESA space crew get along fine on ISS but their bosses these days are not talking to one another much.  Sure, sure, all the sections are latched together; sure, the stabilizing hardware is mostly Russian and so's the air supply -- but ew, NASA apparently doesn't want to have to talk to the commercialized (note the display-card ads in wide shots of Russian Mission Control), shoestring-budget Roscosmos (RKA)/RSC Energia people. (Energia, already 38% state-owned, may end up 51%+ state-owned under a push to renationalize Russia's space industry.  Sad.)
* Bearing in mind that at present, a "perfectly-good" spacesuit is one that won't kill you in the first hour or so.  Gloves are a particular problem, as is movement in general, which is why everyone runs lower pressures and higher oxygen levels and preparing for a spacewalk includes sleeping in the airlock, breathing the low-pressure outdoor mix; otherwise, spacesuited workers end up starfished, comfy but hardly able to bend at any joint.


Bear said...

I just quietly whimpered at some of the reports I saw. Couldn't bring myself to write anything about it. One report was so bad... wish I'd bookmarked it for future reference ... don't even remember what news service it was.

That report was so disjointed and muddled that it appeared the writer thought the astronaut was going to drown in water(?) leaking from the malfunctioning station cooling pump, and the "snorkel" was to get above that "water level". I suspect the poor fool was confusing suit and station cooling because he thought the EVA suit would be on a life support umbilical fed by the station system. But I would bet on it. Nor anything else I read there.

Could be worse. I had occasion to get roped into the whole "guns won't work in space because there's no air to burn" discussion earlier.

Speaking of suits: Did you see that MIT has invented the counter pressure suit?

Roberta X said...

Inevented? *Again?* ;) Puurnelle writes about working on a team that evaluated them -- early 60s? Earlier? -- and even back then, he was aware the idea had been around.

MIT, like NASA, suffers a lot from "We have the only ideas" syndrome.

Bear said...

Yeah, given Pournelle's Birth of Fire, I was particularly amused by MIT's emphasis on using these for Mars. [grin]

Bear said...

Heh. Someone told Pournelle about MIT's suit.

Windy Wilson said...

I was not aware of the NASA/Russian Space Agency rift. Is there a white line painted down the middle of the station a la the crew Jerry Lewis and Connie Stevens replaced in Way . . . Way Out?