Space Suit of the Week

‘Sup nerds? Check your adult diapers, because this week we’re having a Space Suit underpants party. No, we won’t be moonwalkin’ in our skivvies, but we’ll take a look at how fancy long underwear keeps Spacefolk from suffering thermal extremes that would otherwise freeze and scorch them. Earlier, I commented that “the technical requirements of space suits are tremendous. In the vacuum of space, these suits recreate the protection that our entire biosphere offers, only these suits compress that protection” to about the thickness of a halloween costume. Maintaining a safe body temperature is one of the technical requirements any viable space suit must satisfy.

The average temperature in space is about three degrees above absolute zero, but when you get close to cosmic hairdryers, like our sun, it can get balmy.  How balmy? Well, take what the weather is like on earth’s moon: -240 degrees in the shade and 230 degrees in the sun. Half of your flesh is toasty while the other half is frigid. (This ignores what would happen to your body as a result of the lack of pressure. hint: water on your tongue and eyeballs boils).

A sight for sore eyes is the Liquid Cooling Garment, or LCG, which circulates water around small polyvinyl chloride tubes embedded in long, spandex underwear to conduct heat away from the astronaut’s body.  See them?  (Those aren’t pee tubes! In fact, astronauts wear superabsorbant diapers on space walks, although that hasn’t always been the case.) The water is re-cooled via a heat pump and re-circulated to keep the astronaut’s body temperature from rising as body heat accumulates inside the space suit.

That’s why you can’t really dress like an astronaut for halloween without a diaper.

I guess the hood is optional.


August 27, 2010