Thursday, May 27, 2004
Current Chaos Manor mail: "Whenever anyone presses NASA to shift money from current programs and take a bet on competition and going outside the system they say if we don't keep spending the money we'll be left without crucial capabilities. What no one realizes is that we no longer have any capabilities.

NASA ruled yesterday that U.S. spacesuits on the International Space Station are unusable and ordered the crew to use Russian gear instead, adding considerable time and distance to a critical spacewalk next month.

The crew wanted to wear American suits and go out the much closer American hatch to get to a broken power supply unit on the exterior of the space station, but a cooling problem with the outfits made that impossible.


When, way back in the 1980's, I suggested in a BYTE column that NASA's space suits were not very good, a Hamilton Standard official actually tried to get McGraw Hill to fire me for such insolence. The suits aren't much improved now. The Hamilton Standard axis of evil with the Astronaut Office is notorious. The stupid suits we use cost billions in mission effectiveness, since they use low pressure pure oxygen and thus require pure oxygen pre-breathing for any mission on which an EVA is scheduled. You can't run the Shuttle on pure oxygen at atmospheric pressure, which means that you have fewer gas molecules in the Shuttle, which means cooling efficiencies fall, which means that many electronic components have to be shut down until the EVA portion of the mission is over.

It is well known that we know how to build better suits.

Better suits would use some 12 psi of enriched air rather than 3.5 psi pure oxygen, or just go with 14 pounds of air and be done with it. But elderly astronauts tire when required to do much work in 12 - 14 psi suits. Since the astronauts all tend to be 40 year old Ph.D. types rather than 20 year old riggers and mechanics, and the astronaut office controls the missions, and Hamilton Standard and the higher ranking NASA people in the astronaut office are thick as, well, are good buddies, the NASA Ames people who know how to build suits are never given any money, Houston keeps control of any suit advancement program, and there has been little to zero progress since the 1980's.

It is one of the scandals of the space program, one well known to anyone who bothers to look into it. Hamilton Standard makes more per year maintaining the useless suits we have than it would cost for a full development program to make better ones. Think on that for a while.

I wonder if a RICO suit is in order? It is coming to that. It may take that to get the NASA bureaucracy and the industrial complex out of bed together and start a program that allows us to have decent EVA equipment that will allow us to do on-orbit assembly.

On-orbit construction is the key to the planets. Everyone knows this. And NASA does not care."

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