With (non) apologies to the great ZZ Top.
It is not right to have a city in the sky without the ability to go outside. Of course, going outside in space can be lethal. Thus, the spacesuit was born. Spacesuits have undergone many changes in its evolutionary period, and have been used in many different EVA scenarios. However, every single one of the designs absolutely needed one additional component to operate safely:
An airlockNASA's Gemini and Apollo solved the airlock problem by using the spacecraft cabin itself as an airlock. While it indeed solved the problem in the short term (Apollo, it can be said, was certainly efficient), a more long term solution is needed.
If only there was a spacesuit that you could enter from the back (where the backpack is) while the spacesuit is attached to the side of a vehicle or module, so that you could leave the spacesuit outside all the time, and thus eliminating the need for an airlock.
Contined below the fold...
Other spacesuits open from the back (like Russian Orlan spacesuits), but they are not able to be attached outside, thus necessitating the need for an airlock.
The suit is first attached to a space vehicle or module through a special port. The back of the suit fits into the port, and and an airtight seal is made. The inner hatch can then be taken off, and the Personal Life Support System (PLSS) can be detached.
The Z-2 makes lunar surface ops a snap. One of the problems with working on the lunar surface is that it is like talcum powder, and it get everywhere.
And Now, The Bad News
The good news is that spacesuits get filthy operating in a lunar environment. Keeping the suits outside solves that problem.
The bad news is that spacesuits get filthy operating in a lunar environment. No amount of upkeep and preventative maintenance will stop the suit fabric from eventually becoming too dark to reflect solar heat, or connectors getting lunar grit in them, or maybe even a failure to relock at the end of a lunar EVA due to excess amounts of lunar dust.
Will the fabric itself eventually be replaced, or will a whole new spacesuit need to be purchased (doubtful)? How is the interior of the garment cleaned of B.O.? Is it more easily adjustable so that astronauts of different heights can use them? Is the suit operations like learning to fly a fighter jet (like in the old days), or is it a whole lot easier? These and other questions need to be address so that we can make the necessary adjustments to our business model.
We are confident that ILC Dover, the manufacturers of the spacesuit, has solved, or is on the way to solving, these and other problems of lunar exploration.
Technological advances have made space exploration at least theoretically easier and cheaper to do than back in the old days of Apollo. The spacesuit is certainly an excellent example of that; compared to what we have available today, the early NASA spacesuits indeed look quaint.
But that does not diminish what the early explorers had accomplished. And it is up to us to preserve for posterity sake the history of the first landings on the lunar surface.
Of course, that's a story for another day.
A version of this diary was cross-posted at NMSTARG.
The DKos NMSTARG diary series:
- History, Part I
- History, Part II
- Space Port
- Space Plane
- Space Stations
- Space Ships
- Recharge and Resupply
- Lunar Ships
- Lunar Base
- Lunar Propellant
- Clean Up
- Space Health
- Advanced Systems
FULL DISCLOSURE: I work for the New Mexico Space Technology Applications Research Group (NMSTARG), a commercial space flight venture, which in its current form exists as an unfinished technical paper. NMSTARG is not affiliated with any of the businesses that were discussed in these posting. These diaries exists as a way for the DKos community to get a first look at our research, and to ask said community for any technical and non-technical (just as important!) feedback. The paper provides information on how to make a profit in space, detailing the infrastructure that will be needed and all of the associated costs involved. As such, we hope that it eventually attracts the attention of investors, where the paper then becomes the technical portion of a space-related business plan.