Monday, April 30, 2012

Star Voyage II

While students were quietly taking a quiz, I worked on some numbers. Here are travel times to Proxima Centauri (closest star system; no planets known there as yet) and Gilese 667Cc, where yesterday it was announced there is a planet potentially habitable for us primates. I highlight the rows for traveling at .03 the speed of light because between 1869 and 1969 we increased human travel speed by a thousandfold, from a locomotive's 30mph to Apollo X's c.30,000mph. If we can do the same in the next century, these travel times become comprehensible. 'Generations' indicates simply 30-year human generations. For Prox Cent, it's only 5 generations = about from you to the Civil War. For Gilese 667Cc it's from today to, say, the time of Medieval Europe, Ankor Wat, or the Maya world.

Based on what we know of human biocultural evolution to date, for the longer trip, 700+ years, we can expect (or we might say 'should not be surprised by') some grammatical change in language, perhaps leading to a new language(s); significant changes to human physiology and genetic regulation schedules (though not necessarily very visible physical changes); significant cultural change (new priorities, on the level of religious beliefs and essential philosophies; Rappoport's term 'Ultimate Sacred postulates' is useful here); and tremendous technological advance -- I imagine growing technology--harnessing the replication fidelity of DNA--rather than building it.

50,000 Feet

A weather balloon recently shot this image from an altitude of 50,000 feet. I guess when people ask why I want to go up, I can will just point them to this image.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Guts!

The back side of the testbed, showing the gas, electrical and fluid lines, wires and tubes. I'm at the point where I can start to take this all apart and build it into an actual flight configuration.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bristol 138

Squadron leader Swain being installed in his Bristol 138, equipped with a Pegasus engine, for the flight to nearly 50,000 feet.

F.R.D. Swain

Test pilot F.R.D. Swain is helped into his pressure suit at Farnborough, England, in 1936. He flew his modified Bristol 138, with a Pegasus engine, to just over 49,000 feet wearing this rubberized-cotton pressure garment. Part of my confidence in building my own is that these suits were made in a 5-year period in the mid-30's, when the only way to fly so high was in unpressurized aircraft / balloon cockpits. If they could build them then, surely I can build one now! I'm writing a story on Swain and am running into some historical blocks. He almost certainly flew in WWII, but what he did then is not clear.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

New Mask

Finally tested building in the new oral-nasal mask, which routes breathing gas into my lungs from the supply outside the suit, then out of my lungs, and out of the suit (carrying away carbon dioxide) through the exhale valve / hose. The mask has a better seal than the one I built (over several months) but was never entirely confident about. A couple of adjustments to make, but I feel a lot better with this system. Bottom photo shows helmet's internal sun visor in the down position. Not shown is the mylar uv/ir visor cover that I'll build onto the outside of the visor.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Holy Hamburgers!

Today my Mom--visiting for a couple of weeks--helped me into the suit, and we brought the pressure up to half of what I need (some safety issues prevent me from bringing it to full pressure just yet). And holy hamburgers, the thing works! I am thrilled and astounded and thrilled again! Photos show me in the suit; pressurized (visor fogging is a minor issue that occurs for a known and preventable reason); the stance I am obliged to take when the suit is 'dialed in' with the helmet hold-down cables cinched down; and me out of the suit, pouring sweat (didn't run the cooling system this time, for boring, technical reasons)!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Star Voyage

I've been working on some numbers and mathematical models. There are plenty of assumptions implicit in this diagram, but that is the nature of models -- they are models, not reality :) And yet they can be of great use. These will be explained in the text of the article I'm writing for Scientific American. Mind-expanding stuff!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Solenoid Test -- Super Progress!

Video above shows today's pressure test -- I ran it for an hour and the suit never dropped below the needed pressure.

Direct link.