Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Space Suit

I've been posting and reading a lot about boarding actions and applicable tactics and weapons. It got me thinking about that staple of SF: the spacesuit.

Now spacesuits in SF have taken on the role of horses in fantasy. Everyone uses them but few people know how they should be used. On the subject of the horse, writers and rpgers often treat them like bicycles. They ride them where they want to go but don't know all the care they require as living creatures.

As for spacesuits, people expect a lot of a collection of fabric, tubing, tanks and batteries that already keep you alive in one of the deadliest environments known to man. For my money Marianas Trench has space beat. It'll kill you way quicker and we have yet to build a suit to keep a man alive that far down.

Vacuum can take up to a minute to kill you. If you're lucky you have 15 seconds of useful consciousness in vacuum. A suit patch takes up to ten seconds to apply so you better put it where your can find it quickly.

For my spacesuit (assuming I'm suddenly a character in a space opera) I'd like to try something new. I want something that will allow me to suit up quickly without the need to pre-breath pure oxygen for a few hours. That means it has to stand up to an atmosphere of pressure. Can modern technology produce such a garment? Maybe.

One type of spacesuit being proposed is a skin tight job made of an elastic that exerts one atmosphere of pressure over every square centimeter of your body. There are a couple of problems with that. First it would take a long time to wriggle into. Second the human body like an English muffin has all manner of nooks and crannies that the suit will stretch over. These will expand with air and become undignified at best and uncomfortable or restricting at worst. Proponents of such suits suggest ... putty, though inflatable bladders will also work. The bladder method probably means the suits must be custom fitted.

On the plus side it is the least cumbersome and allows full range of movement. A skin suit is also light weight if gravity is a factor.

Another way to hold a standard atmosphere is a hard suit. Hard suits are durable and relatively easy to get into. They are heavy and restrict movement as they are essentially high tech plate mail with a backpack.

The key to my spacesuit is this:

The arms and legs are made of this fabric which shrinks to fit them when subjected to electric current. Another current heats the fabric making it loosen. You can get into the sleeves and legs of the suit easily enough. The torso would be hard suit through and through to protect vital areas and let me get into my suit without using putty and such. Thus the suit has some of the durability of a hard suit but is lighter over all and the sleeves will allow more freedom of movement.

A lot of suit designs have controls in the helmet you work with your tongue or chin. I'm not doing that. It sounds disgusting and imprecise. I'd have my control systems on a heads up display controlled by motion sensors on my arm. Basically you see the control icons on your helmet and the suit senses what icon you are pointing to.I'd also install a blower or vacuum in the helmet to dry sweat before it floats free and gets in your eyes.

The helmet would also holds a snack bar in a slot just in case I'm on a space walk longer than expected. Likewise I'd have a water dispenser that could either give me a drink or blow some mist in my face to wake me up.