Friday, December 28, 2012
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Above, the newly-reconfigured cockpit: suit pressurization gas and breathing gas are controlled on the left panel (completely rebuilt since 9am today!); all electrics and the balloon burner levers are on the right panel; all flight monitors (e.g. altimeters, vertical speed indicator etc) are up above. The front is unobstructed so that in emergency I can disconnect from the various hoses and go right out the... front of this sucker! Everything is still in wood and zip-ties, with exposed wiring etc, as I dial in the final arrangement. Everything must be in easy range of my hands when I'm fully pressurized, yet clear enough to bail in the event of emergency. The suit determines the size of the seat, the seat determines the size of the gondola/cockpit, the gondola/cockpit determines the size of the balloon, the size of the balloon determines the n and volume of fuel tanks...So 'hard wiring' anything into place at this time would be foolish.
Also a photo of PVC fittings now being replaced with beautiful, shining stainless steel! The center fitting is coming out soon; not sure that I actually need it.
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Sunday, December 9, 2012
Sunday, December 2, 2012
Saturday, December 1, 2012
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Friday, November 23, 2012
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Friday, November 16, 2012
Sunday, November 4, 2012
Friday, November 2, 2012
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Sunday, October 21, 2012
More than 30 years ago, my Dad bought a book for me at NASA-Houston, titled "Space Settlements: An Engineering Strudy". In it he wrote that he thought that some day humanity would colonize space, and that he thought that I might be a part of that effort. I am putting a lot of work into fulfilling that dream, to which I fully subscribe. After all, we buy insurance for our own lives, and space colonization is just an insurance policy for humanity and civilization. We humans have plenty of problems, and colonizing space will not solve them, but it would prevent all of our eggs, so to speak, from being in the same, fragile basket.
"Project Hyperion – Manned Interstellar Flight
Many studies of interstellar craft focus on vessels that are unmanned. This is because the task of starship construction is considered sufficiently challenging without the additional complexity of creating an environment where humans could survive for decades or even centuries. Project Hyperion will tackle this specific challenge head on and perform a preliminary study that defines concepts for a crewed interstellar starship. Major areas of study include propulsion, environmental control, life support, social studies related to crewed multi-decadal/multi-century missions, habitat studies, communications, psychology of deep spaceflight, mission objectives and ethics of sending humans to the stars. Like with all complex system developments, a major challenge is to merge the results from the domain-specific sub studies into a coherent system design. This shall be accomplished by using up-to-date systems engineering approaches like concurrent engineering and model-based systems engineering"
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Monday, October 1, 2012
Sunday, September 30, 2012
Friday, September 28, 2012
Monday, September 17, 2012
Recently, WIRED ran a story and a video on the project. Link is here: the still photos are at the top of the page, the video at the bottom. Tonight, a leak rate test! The system is very close to ready for testing in a pressure chamber!
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Headed home from the 100 Year Starship Study conference in Houston, Texas. My paper was on some genetic and cultural issues implicated in a 100-year (say, 3-human-generation) interstellar starship voyage. I'll dive much more deeply into this matter in a paper and a book chapter that will derive from this talk, looking at a number of population genetics and demographics issues. At the conference, plenty of interesting discussion points came up! At the social--after two days of papers on such a range of topics as antimatter propulsion, quantum radar, and advanced textiles--the actor LaVar Burton (among others of a panel of celebs) was clear, funny and eloquent on the reasons to put into action this project to, by 100 years from now, have the capacity to build and propel a starship with a colony of humans aboard, to another star. Humans, individually, buy insurance to avert disaster in the future. Our species should do the same. Plenty of projects and organizations in our history have persisted for a century, and of course in Europe, cathedrals often took more than a century to build. At low expense, spread over this time (which also prevents us rushing into things), this project seems reasonable. Of course, we have plenty of issues to address on Earth -- but it is possible to do more than one thing at once, and you have to keep an eye on the future, and plan for it, lest it come up and smite thee :)
In the photo, retired astronaut and 100 Year Starship Study director Dr. Mae Jamison (left), National Museum of African Art Director Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole (center) and actor LaVar Burton (right) have a laugh during a wide-ranging, informal discussion of many aspects of space colonization. Who would have believed, 40 years ago, that the 100YSS Director would be a female, African-American astronaut???
Lower photo shows a new book in the early gastrulation stage!
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Neil Armstrong, back in the lunar module in 1969, after a quick walk on the moon. He is exhausted and thrilled. He is also breathing 100% oxygen (which he's been breathing for several days at 5psi, a third of what we breathe here on Earth), at 1/6 Earth gravity, so he has a different character of face than any of us has ever seen. This is the countenance of a man who, in his youth, dreamt of leviation.
Sunday, September 9, 2012
Back when I was an undergrad in England, a good buddy of mine was a crack programmer who taught me some things about computer programming. Now I've used that knowledge to write a simple program simulating my balloon flights. The program runs on an ancient Mac that I pulled out of a closet. Using a simple formula that takes into account many variables that result in buoyancy force of the balloon (the essence of balloon aviation) it simulates ALT = altitude, FPM = feet per minute ascending or descending, FUEL = fuel consumption (not being monitored just yet), OAT = outside air temp in F, BET = balloon envelope temperature, OXY = oxygen supply (not monitored either just yet), APSI = ambient atmospheric pressure in PSI and some other variables. This sim will be run many times, and refined, with me in the suit / cockpit mockup, communicating with my buddy Chuck Sullivan, who will run the sim and coordinate things like running the burner and bailout scenarios while I'm in the pressurized suit, communicating by radio. By running sims we can get a handle on things like how we communicate, power and gas consumption rates, how long it takes to do certain things, and so on. Another piece of the puzzle in place :)
Complete rewiring today, getting the system set for fully-pressurized simulations coordinated with the flight simulation program. This will give me concrete information about flight times and consumption rates for e.g. battery power (though I don't have the solar panels I'll use to keep a 'trickle charge' into the 12v DC system), suit pressurization gas and breathing gas. It will also ensure that I can reach all the switches and other actuators with the suit pressurized, as well as totally disconnect from the system to stand up and bail out in the event of emergency.
Monday, August 27, 2012
Saturday, August 25, 2012
I spend a lot of time thinking about checklists--they're the only way to be sure all goes well. I imagine circumstances and plan out what to do in those cases, then formalize them into lists of actions. On the one hand, checklists are invaluable; everyone from serious divers to aircraft pilots use them. On the other hand, you mustn't be a slave to a checklist if conditions differ than what you expected...and if you step far outside your front door, that is what you find!
Friday, August 24, 2012
A month and a half break from the physical system allowed me to think about it at times, and in my notebook I designed four systems to build. Today I took a couple of hours and $10.00 to build a prototype of one, a mechanical and automatic suit pressure regulation valve; it admits suit pressurization gas into the suit, but then shuts off the gas supply when a certain pressure is reached. If suit pressure drops, the system kicks back in and brings it up again to healthy pressure. This PVC prototype, if it works, will be even easier to build in metal. It replaces the 12v DC solenoid, for the same function, that I like except for the fact that it requires power, and batteries fail, and I don't want something so critical as suit pressure to rely on power. Second photo shows cleaning old rubber cement from around a through-fitting, a little detail that will improve the seal.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Friday, July 6, 2012
Anchored at Little Scorpion Bay, and some other photos. I have breathed in sea air, tasted the sea again and I have been instructed by a sea lion to depart his fishing grounds! A minute under the waves, examining one of these wonders, and it is hard to come back up to a world of childish politics and short-sighted plans for the 'future'. Somehow, I will be weaving evolution, the natural world, and human history and prehistory into the next thing I write.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
I just shot this photo of starfish clinging to a rock in a marine sanctuary off California. There is a whole domain of marine biology that investigates the fascinating world of the 'interface' between the sea and the atmosphere above the sea. These life forms do just fine at lower tide, exposed to air, as well as at higher tide, when they're completely submerged...
We shot video for a TV project for a week and I think we have some great material 'in the can'. Now, like all TV projects, we see what the Execs think of it :)
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
"As when, upon a tranced summer-night,
Those green-rob’d senators of mighty woods,
Tall oaks, branch-charmed by the earnest stars,
Dream, and so dream all night without a stir,
Save from one gradual solitary gust
Which comes upon the silence, and dies off,
As if the ebbing air had but one wave;
So came these words and went..."
When I am a broken shambling skeleton, staggering down a street, this--if I can remember it--will be my treasure, just as it is today! Nobody can take these words from my mind and nobody can rob me of this treasure.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Time to stop messing with plastic fittings, and move to metal (samples in lower image), which won't crack at low temperatures. This fitting, which I'm working with a large wrench, has given me a lot of trouble; it won't seal, despite my closest examination and cleaning of threads etc. Before I get the metal fittings, I'll finalize decisions RE how many and of what type I need. With these replaced, I'm sure I will knock out the final leaks. Right now the leaks are very small indeed, but I'm going to knock them lower.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Top photo: 'The System' overtaking my whole home! Lower photo: took apart the testbed and started building the cockpit mockup; this lays out controls and monitors in the flying configuration. A thousand details to attend, but it's coming along.
Friday, June 15, 2012
Finally went to work on taking apart the flight instruments panel, and the main power control panel. Still not at a perfect configuration with the instruments, but it's a lot better this way and can now be mounted in the cage, above and in front of the seat (on a swing arm so that I can quickly get it out of the way if I need to bail out), so that I can start to run simulations of flight -- me pressurized in the suit, which is now very close to a 'flyable' state -- with a near-real arrangement of my basic indicators and controls. A close examination of the electrics panel reveals that it's not up to the job (loose fittings, chinzy fittings) and will be replaced, but that's a minor matter. I secured power lines with tiny zip ties to prevent 'jiggling' from disconnecting connections, and labeled the lines to make them easier to manage when the box is built around the switch panel. Doing this, I broke open one switch -- a headache to rebuild it, but now I know what's inside a switch, and can therefore make a better choice when I get the final switching panel.