Sunday, July 15, 2007

Chicago Highlights


Looking South toward Museum Park from 94th floor of the John Hancock Center. The building has 100 floors and views of 4 States. If you don't want to pay the admission price, visit the bar on the 96th floor and buy a drink. The best view of all is from the ladies room.

Across the street at the Westin Hostel July 9-12 was the 37th International Conference of Environmental Systems (ICES). Attending were representatives of Hamilton-Sundstrand (the shuttle EMU suit), David Clark Company (the orange pumpkin suit), experts in life support and especially spacesuits. Talks covered everything from suborbital spacecraft to Mars habitats. Private Space companies, you needed to be here.

Monday morning's opening talk was by Dr. Michael Gernhardt of NASA, who has also flown in Space 4 times. He showed results of astronauts being eaten alive by the Mark III spacesuit. Most of the talks seemed to favour rear entry, allowing suits to be docked outside in a "suitlock." Studies at the University of Colorado showed favoured a flexible inner layer and removable armour. These are features of the advanced suit seen July 4.

Tuesday saw a presentation by Dr. Dava Newman's team at MIT. They have managed to complete a suit leg made of rubber strips and test it on humans. Unfortunately, the strips tend to slip off and expose the subjects to vacuum. Hint: Buy materiel in sheets. Their funding came from the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts, which sadly has been terminated. Many promising ideas, like a liquid air backpack, are languishing for lack of funding.

Wednesday night was the banquet and social with Scott Horowitz. Private industry and government are very serious about going to the Moon and Mars. Most current designs resemble the I-suit, You're Going Out in That? Building spacesuits is difficult and very, very expensive. Only one party showed up with a full suit. (Well, I didn't know what else to wear.)

You heard it here first: Very soon NASA will issue a formal Request for Proposals for the next-generation suit. They are expected to make a decision in Summer '008. The new suit system will be used for journeys to other worlds lasting until the 2030's. Our hosts Hamilton Sundstrand and David Clark will fight very hard to keep a piece of the action. Hopefully the counter-pressure technology will help make future astronauts safer.

Rockets, pyramids, tall buildings and spacesuits all symbolise the human desire to reach the sky.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Darnell Clayton said...

Tuesday saw a presentation by Dr. Dava Newman's team at MIT. They have managed to complete a suit leg made of rubber strips and test it on humans. Unfortunately, the strips tend to slip off and expose the subjects to vacuum.

The ironic part is that their suit actually looks fairly good, fashion wise.

New Scientist Space did an article about their suit, although they can hopefully get the liquid air backpack (as that may be easier to store than a gaseous version).

4:01 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

I also attended the presentation on a liquid air backpack. That is a very promising technology that unfortunately is also not being funded today.

4:06 PM  

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