Spacesuits and Habitats for Survival

Dr. Enzmann, ca. 1960s

Even as the great ocean liners equipped every passenger with a lifejacket and a place on a lifeboat, Starships equip some manner of spacesuit or capsule and a place on a survival packet. Space capsules for passengers on the great interstellar colonizing ships carrying many thousands of people may be compared with life jackets. The magnificent space suits provided for ships’ company (personnel of the Echolances) may be compared with the very best dry immersion suits used in the oceans of Earth, but they are comparably better than these. The possibility of survival in a passengers’ capsule is limited to several weeks. Survival in a spacesuit as used by ship’s companies could be indefinite. It would at the least be many years.

Survival of the passengers together with the members of a ship’s company – should they be fortunate enough to have some survival packets – could be indefinite. This would be true if the proportion of passengers to crew members were as high as 100 passengers to one crew member.

The survival packets are similar to the best lifeboats used in the oceans of Earth in more ways than one. They, even as the better lifeboats can provide everything needed for life for many months. It may be compared with a lifeboat and its people surviving a trip halfway across the ocean.

The survival packets are optimally useful in the neighborhood of a star. Near stars, they can gain solar energy, and materials are always available. First of all the survival packets come with photon sails. They therefore can maneuver and with time and patience cover vast distances in a stellar system. They could, for example, with sails alone, travel from Mars to the Earth with the survivors before supplies would give out.

Artificial gravity of a most rudimentary sort can be provided by the survival packets. If the survivors discover that they must remain marooned in one location for a lengthy period they can doubly rotate their capsule. It provides an interesting pattern of downward directions. One of these is diagrammed as an octahedral symmetry. Such stations can be built about a small asteroid. The asteroid would not be rotated. The asteroid would serve as a source of materials.

Air. The only problem in providing air for a survival packet is the mass of the air. Normal atmospheric air is comprised of nitrogen, oxygen, and some carbon dioxide. One of many methods for carrying oxygen is so-called chlorate candles. It is the mass of air that prohibits spacesuits used by the ships’ companies from being equipped with very large survival packets as integral parts of their spacesuits. Yet, they do carry small units of this nature. Air renewal, cycling of breathable air, demand the extraction of carbon dioxide, and replenishing of oxygen. Nitrogen can remain more or less constant. One of the easiest methods for recycling air is the use of green plants. Near a star there is light. Where there is light it is possible to raise plants. If a person lives in a room with about 50 to 100- square feet of green leaf he will provide carbon dioxide for the leaves and they will provide him with oxygen. By using leafy green plants which are carried as a variety of seeds and backing this up with a small simple scrubbing equipment a group could live indefinitely in a fully deployed survival packet.

Habitat walls ideally will be metalized. Each packet will come with devices for taking nickel-iron as found in asteroids and flame spraying the light plastic hills of the habitats. It takes relatively little metal to completely cover a habitat. The Atlas Missiles, the Apollo capsules, and most other rockets are only about 1/100th of an inch thick. Hulls are easily made multiple, as shells separated by hoops.

Illuminating habitats. The initial basic plastic shells to be flame sprayed can be covered with short very narrow strips of plastic that can be pulled off. When a habitat has been covered with metal the strips can be peeled off to leave slots. The plastic at these slots will be thin. It can be thickened by spraying with plastic. At a distance, a great many slots looked quite transparent. It is easy to shutter such slots.

Temperatures of habitats can be controlled with great precision through the use of several multi-slot windows and their shutters. Heat may be dumped through the windows facing space. HEat may be gained by admitting light through the shutter-controlled slot windows facing the star near the castaways.

Rotating habitats. Solar power may be used to move air on circular routes within the habitats. this will cause the habitat to rotate in the opposite direction. This will circulate the air on the vehicle reducing the hazard of stagnation.

Drinking potable water is done with a combination of solar power and thermal energy from the plutonium 238 power source. In a ship’s company spacesuit, it is relatively easy to distill water for use in cooking, drinking, and washing.

When hearing of a still one usually imagines a coil as used in that magnificent old American trade journal Ethanol for internal combustion engines or more traditionally flavored, aged just a little, bottled and consumed. the energy-expensive methods of that grand old American patriot John Shay is not the way of the stills made for life rafts in the latter part of WW II. Not those of Survival packets. These are more of the nature of air wells.

Gases and metals gases can be secured from silicates that abound in oxygen. Water can be secured from silicates with great effort. However, both water and gases can be secured from comets. The comet’s richest with minerals would be the dirty snowballs. These in terrestrial would be frozen slush of mud bound with water, methane, oxygen, nitrogen, and other gases. A small comet of this nature would be a rich find for a survival habitat. It would be nice to mine, but not particularly nice to live on.

Soils – the richest soils known to mankind are those brought back from the Moon by astronauts. When plants were grown in Moon soils they thrived. It is easy to see why. None of the nutrients have been leached out.