I will never get a change to tell D.C. Fontana what she meant to me as a little boy growing up in turbulent times, or as a grown man tempted by the writing bug. Dorothy, who wrote under the byline “D.C.” because the world isn’t what it ought to be, has died at the age of 80.
In Sputnik’s Orbit
A few thoughts to tide you over…
Last week, NASA announced the new spacesuit for it’s Artemis program. The suit, which actually has been in the works in various forms for many years, is called the xEMU, or “Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit.”
The suit is an evolution beyond the current Enhanced EMU used on the ISS in much the same way the EMU was an evolution beyond the A7L used during Apollo.
Much about the suit is familiar, and much falls short of what NASA would like, but as it often the case with NASA hardware, it’s not bad and it will definitely work.
Like the EMU, the xEMU used a rigid upper torso unit and comes in sized components to fit many astronauts. Unlike the EMU, the limbs are also rigid and move using angles bearings, like the joints in HVAC ducts, only much smoother.
In additon, the xEMU:
- Weighs less than the current Enhanced EMU.
- Supports a wider range of motion, allowing astronauts to reach over their heads and bend down and touch the ground.
- Allows much easier entry through a hatch in the back of the rigid upper torso unit. The hatch is also the life support pack. This design is easily adapted to a suit port, in which the suit stays outside all the time, and docks to the side of the habitat for ingress and egress, radically reducing the amount of dust tracked inside.
- Allows the astronaut to step in an immediately start working in a pure oxygen atmosphere at 8 psi, high enough to eliminate danger of the bend when coming from a higher pressure nitrogen oxygen habitat atmosphere. The suit then lowers the pressure to 3 psi gradually, allowing the astronaut to slowly shed the nitrogen dissolved in their tissues without needing the pre-breathe oxygen before their EVA.
- Audio communication is through sophisticated microphones mounted inside the helmet, and similar to those used for headset-free speech recognition, so there is no need for the astronaut to wear a “snoopy cap.”
- The emergency oxygen supply is filled to the same 3,000 psi as the primary instead of the 6,000 psi used in the A7L OPS carried on Apollo missions, which made it impossible to recharge the OPS in space. It also made it more likely that the OPS would explode.
- Like the Enhanced EMU, the xEMU is modular to make it easy to size to different astronauts.
- The CO2 scubber in the xPLSS life support pack is regenerative, and can essentially function as long as it has power with no need to replace consumable lithium hydroxide canisters.
- In an emergency, keep the occupant alive for up to six days. Yeah…think about that for a moment.
Moon hoax conspiracultists are an odd bunch. They invest endless energies making and parroting Internet claims about complex topics they don’t understand, but none at all investigating the actual world they live in.
A case in point is the fairly recent claim that images like this “prove the hoax” by showing “film crew credits for those filming the Apollo missions”:
In Houston, we have a saying that every citizen is expected to know: “real chili has no beans.” But we have another saying that’s more germane to the topic at hand, “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.” We see it on the traffic signs all around town, and every time there’s a major storm, we see the results when our fellow citizens fail to heed this simple wisdom: don’t try to drive through high water. Every time, vehicles are totaled by the hundreds, motorists are stranded or have to be rescued, and all to often, people die–tragically yes, but as we are all quick to add, also needlessly, foolishly, presentably.
Except that isn’t always true. Not at all, in fact.
When early rocket pioneers started strapping volunteers to missiles, how did they know those volunteers would need spacesuits? Of course, in both the Soviet Union and the US, animals subject we tested first, but in fact, we already had aircraft flying almost to the edge of space before that–and aircraft flew higher than humans can survive even during World War II. How did we prepare for this environment? How did we know we needed to?
Well in fact, people had been flying in balloons since the 18th century, and some later balloon flights led to deaths. But long before this, in 1644, Torricelli described the first mercury barometer, writing “We live submerged at the bottom of an ocean of the element air.”
Torricelli and his mentor Galileo knew full well that we live on a spherical planet, but Galileo gave an erroneous explanation for the difficulties in using the suction pump to draw water up a well even though Aristotle had known that air has weight.
feetSo I built a couch this week–one of those Home Reserve sectionals where all the parts are made on a CNC router and you have to put them together jig-saw style. I’ve never been a fan of “flat-pack” furniture, but with advancing technology, it’s lost most of the deserved stigma it once had.
Many of you have, of late, been enjoying the video adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch — as well you should, it’s quite an enjoyable romp with wonderful performances by stars Michael Sheen, David Tennant, and Adria Arjona (among others).
What you might not know however (though the authors certainly did) is the link between the fanciful Agnes Nutter and the real life witch trials of 16th century Lancashire, in particular the Pendle Witch trials, which echo damningly even today.
This was a generation after the reformation, and England was ruled by the young James the First, who during his upbringing had been indoctrinated (brainwashed, actually) against the Catholics with wild stories of witchcraft and demons.