Sunday, October 28, 2012

New Helmet Liner

It looks like Frankenstein's Monster, but it works, and that is all that matters. I cannibalized the original Russian helmet liner and spent four hours hand-sewing panels of mesh into a proper skullcap (the old one was a poorly-fitting bag) complete with a sweat-absorbing brow band, ear cups for the radio microphones, and strap attachments for the oral-nasal mask. One more item off of a long, long list. Today; further pressure testing. That's about done, as I am confident that I now know the location and cause of all leaks, and that I can deal with them all, mainly by replacing all plastic fittings with metal, which I can crank down tighter than the plastic, and which also poses no risk of cracking at the -70F temperatures at high altitude.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fittings Work

Working on fittings today. It's a real thrill to go from an idea that comes to mind on the streetcar, to a drawing, to getting the hardware, and then building and testing it, and finding that...HOT TAMALES, it works!!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012


You must begin somewhere! I am getting connected with the international Project Hyperion group by working on basic genetic and cultural issues of multi-generational starships. I can bring to the discussion and plans a knowledge of human genetics and bio-cultural evolution (the topic of a feature I recently wrote for Scientific American, which will be published next year). This weekend I crunched some numbers and came up with 18k humans as the minimum number I would want to send out as a sustainable population of humans in multigenerational starships. Actually that is a minimum number multiplied by a safety factor. The formula for the number is subject to all kinds of adjustment, but you must begin somewhere. Now this figure and its formula go on to the propulsion people, to see what its mass implies for their plans...The idea is not to build anything now, but to have, at the end of the century, the capacity to build and send out interstellar starships carrying human (and their domesticate) populations suststainable over multiple generations.

"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"

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.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

1-Hour Pressure, Communications and Checklist Test

Super-low resolution clips, but the better quality will take some time to process. Great hour-long test tonight with Chuck on the radio. We identified a lot of problems--the function of tests!--and my TO DO list doubled in size! Closing Faceplate (direct link): Chuck launches the simulator while I'm sealed in the pressurized suit (direct link):

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pressure Suit Project Synopsis

Local story on the pressure suit aired tonight -- thanks to Tim Becker for doing a great, condensed story -- I think it turned out well and communicates the basics. Direct link here.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cockpit Mosaic Photo

Even with a fisheye lense, I can't capture the entire cockpit in one photo, so this image is stitched together from three images. On the left, gas management (breathing gas and suit pressurization gas), on the right, electrical controls (on the bottom is the new, red battery switcher from main to backup battery) and on the top, some of the main flight monitors (vertical speed, altitude and so on). A few tests with me in the seat, pressurized in the suit and simulating (by radio) a 3-hour flight, will allow me to adjust and then 'lock in' this essential design, so that I can build the real cockpit from aircraft aluminum and some other materials. These tests ensure that with the suit pressurized, I can reach and operate controls, and in the worst case, bail out easily -- that's why directly in front of me there is nothing to get in the way of getting out of the seat and bailing straight out the front.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Woo hoo, another good test! Tonight KOIN TV came to shoot a segment for Monday. Chuck Sullivan, who's run the communications for expeditions for some years (we also wrote a book together some years ago!), came to help with the suit -- but more importantly to start working out comms with me. He took the headset and we talked through the radios for a while, while he was running the flight simulator and I was in the pressure suit, seated in the balloon car mockup (on the right), getting used to clearly communicating quantities, alarms, rates, going over checklists and so on. Photo shows Chuck being filmed as he talks about running the simulator program etc.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Versatile Humankind!

One of the great videos I use to illustrate the point that we human primates are more versatile than one would expect from biology alone! Sulbin the South Seas hunter.