body are poisoned. The effects of carbon dioxide poisoning begin with
the brain and result in poor decision making. Eventually, unconsciousness and death are reached. (Note that this is a separate issue from
carbon monoxide poisoning.)
The Earth’s atmosphere is very cold at high altitude. The cold
temperature can be a minor nuisance or can result in frostbite and death.
In outer space, it tends to be cold when an astronaut is shaded from the
Sun, but direct exposure to sunlight can still result in burns.
When looking at the dangers of high altitude, we can see that a
spacesuit must meet the following requirements if the wearer is to stay
alive and functional.
so that it wouldn’t stretch from the movements of Post. Gloves and socks
were molded into the suit to maintain its airtight seal. Regular leather
boots were worn over the socks to protect the feet of the suit from
abrasion. The suit’s helmet was a simple cylinder that bolted to the neck
of the pressure suit. Air entered the helmet on the left side of its round
portal window. The cost for the suit was $75 and made Post look a lot
like a deep-sea diver.
Before flying with the suit, it was tested on the ground. Entry into
the pressure suit was through the neck. After Post donned the suit, its
helmet was attached and the suit filled with oxygen. Enough air was
added to the suit to simulate the pressure it would experience during
flight. The suit design wasn’t strong enough to handle the pressure and,
◗ Provide oxygen to keep the body alive
and the brain mentally sharp
◗ Protect the body from the effects of
◗ Remove (or scrub) carbon dioxide from
◗ Maintain a safe and comfortable
While protecting life, a space suit
cannot excessively inhibit the mobility of its
wearer. Doing so makes movements fatiguing or impossible. Since there’s no protection
from micrometeoroids in space, the space
suit must also protect its integrity from
damage by micrometeoroid impacts. Not
only can these impacts compromise the
functioning of the spacesuit, they can also
injure the wearer.
For well over 100 years, knowledgeable
people have known that you can’t survive at
extremely high altitudes, or in outer space,
without protection from the cold and vacuum.
By the early 20th century, pilots like Willey Post
had discovered that aircraft flew faster when
they flew higher (they had discovered the jet
stream). But without some form of protection
from the elements, the pilots and their
passengers would suffer from the effects of
cold and low air pressure.
One solution was to make the cabin of
the aircraft airtight. This way enough heat and
air could be maintained for the crew. However, this required air seals and airtight volumes,
which would make the aircraft too heavy.
Since only the pilot needed protection, it was
decided to build a pressure suit for the pilot
Willy Post asked the B.F. Goodrich Company for help designing a pressure suit. Their
first pressure suit was made from rubberized
parachute fabric. The fabric was cut and sewn
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November 2005 NUTS & VOLTS 69