Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pressure Glove

After about a year of fascinating research into the design and building of pressure suits, I'm not just making sketches and drawings of my own any more: I'm building it, I'm assembling the items that will take me as near to space as I can get, by means of a high altitude balloon.

Today, a 'proof of concept' for the gloves. An airtight seal is made by binding a heavy rubber glove to the wrist wring; a low-pressure gauge sits where I plan to mount it to monitor suit pressure at altitudes over 30,000 feet. Several elements of this assembly will actually be made of different materials, but for the moment I'm working to prove, in material terms, my concepts.

Looking past low clouds the other night, the sterile vastness of open space seemed to draw at me, the draw you feel when you stand on a cliff edge. Standing there I wanted to leap out of my sneakers, straight up, and an intense frustration with the fact that I cannot simply vault away from the Earth overcame me. We are aware of a whole universe to explore, just up there beyond those puny wisps of condensation--the Universe is right there in front of you, you can reach out and damned near touch it--and yet here we remain, still hacking each other to pieces over religion, oil, or what have you.

Well, for the moment, more building; integration of the pressure helmet and the construction of the pressure restraint garment, and custom cutting and sewing of the flameproof Nomex coverall, to be insulated with aerogel. And then, build the balloon and the capsule. Two, three years; slowly, slowly, and finally up to the Arctic to fly.

But plenty before that; soon to Nevada, to fly the paraglider in preparation for Alaska in December, then Ecuador to dive, dive, dive in search of who-knows-what in the greens and greys of Salango Bay.


Flynn Renard said...

Fantastic! I am infinitely dumbfounded by your abilities. Good luck to you.

Cameron McPherson Smith said...

Nothing to it, Flynn, but study and work and being OK with being afraid.