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EDG
2007-Jul-17, 03:11 PM
Dunno if this goes here or in the Q&A forum...

Got a question - is it possible to construct a spacesuit that doesn't have any electronic components in it? So it has no radio, digital HUD readouts or anything like that. It doesn't have to be soft and flexible - it could be a 'hard suit'.

I suspect that it is possible (IIRC old diving suits could get by without them after all), though I'm not sure about the oxygen packs - can those be made entirely out of mechanical components or do those need electronics in them to work?

Larry Jacks
2007-Jul-17, 03:32 PM
I don't see any reason why you couldn't build a space suit without any electronics. You could use ordinary regulators to maintain pressure, conventional thermostats to control temperature, etc. Odds are it'd be bulkier and less efficient than an electronically controlled suit but possible to build.

What I don't see is any reason why you'd want a space suit without radio communications. Without radio, you'd need to plug in an intercom cord to communicate. Seems inefficient to me unless the cord were built into the umbilical.

EDG
2007-Jul-17, 03:48 PM
It's not so much a case of "wanting to build one", more like "having to build one". To explain - I've got a fictional scenario on an airless alien world where electronics simply don't work in a zone several km wide around an alien artifact. So in order to approach or investigate it, you'd need spacesuits that don't have electronic components.

Irishman
2007-Jul-17, 04:10 PM
Do you mean any electrical systems at all, or electronics?

Figure you need something to run the pumps to circulate the oxygen, cooling fluids, etc. You could do like old diving suits with umbilicals, but there's a reason we don't make diving suits with umbilicals any more. Same reasons apply to space suits.

Nicolas
2007-Jul-17, 04:13 PM
It's not so much a case of "wanting to build one", more like "having to build one". To explain - I've got a fictional scenario on an airless alien world where electronics simply don't work in a zone several km wide around an alien artifact. So in order to approach or investigate it, you'd need spacesuits that don't have electronic components.

I've got...a friend...I've got a friend...john...and he has a problem and I'd want to ask you if you know how you can help meJOHN! john. yes.

Just tell us where this airless alien world with electronics-blocking alien artifact is that you need to approach, and we'll help you out. We won't laugh and we won't be mad. It happens to all of us, really. Come on now.

;) :D

phunk
2007-Jul-17, 04:53 PM
Well unless it's an open-circuit breathing system, which would be incredibly wasteful in space, there needs to be something to monitor the O2 level. Adjustments can be made manually, but I don't know of a non-electronic way to monitor it.

EDG
2007-Jul-17, 05:04 PM
Well unless it's an open-circuit breathing system, which would be incredibly wasteful in space, there needs to be something to monitor the O2 level. Adjustments can be made manually, but I don't know of a non-electronic way to monitor it.

Can't you just do that with a simple mechanical device (like a pressure reading gauge or something?). I don't mind if this "suit" has to be a huge, clunky, solid, clockwork monstrosity to work :).

The idea is that there's some kind of weird armwavy ultratech field that dampens electrical activity around the artifact. I guess it should technically affect living beings too (given that we have electrical signals in our brains etc).

Vehicles would also have to be electronics free, but I imagine that's not hard to do since early vehicles here didn't have those in them and they worked fine. How about recording devices though... you can get (primitive) cameras and sound recorders that are purely mechanical can't you?

Noclevername
2007-Jul-17, 05:33 PM
If your explorers are on a planet's surface and need to walk, it could be pumped by their leg movements. They'll get plenty of exercise (beyond that of lugging the suit itself around!).

And chemical-light flashers could be used for signalling.

ADDED: Heck, you could use a pre-oxydized chemical combustion mechanism to power it. Steampunk IN SPACE! ;)

novaderrik
2007-Jul-17, 07:43 PM
just use a magic amulet of some sort that uses the magnetic flux of the armwavium field to invert polarities or something like that to allow simple electronic circuits to work...
if nothign else, check out the Visionaries and go from there..
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visionaries:_Knights_of_the_Magical_Light

Bob B.
2007-Jul-17, 08:37 PM
If nothing electrical can work, then the problem would seem to be running fans and pumps to circulate oxygen and coolant. Perhaps the electric motors normally used to drive these devices could be replaced with a turbine. You could have a small tank of hydrogen peroxide and a bottle of high-pressure nitrogen gas to pressurize the peroxide tank. The liquid peroxide would be forced into a gas generator where it would be decomposed by use of a catalyst into steam and oxygen. This high-pressure gas could then drive a turbine that would operate all the machinery. The hot turbine exhaust (a few hundred degrees C) would have to be vented to the outside and away from the astronaut to not be a danger. In this way I think everything could be mechanical and I don't think the system would be especially bulky. There would however be no voice communications.

Zachary
2007-Jul-17, 09:14 PM
could you use kinetic energy to operate the pumps? A small flywheel could be attatched to every suit which people have to lug around.

Bob B.
2007-Jul-17, 09:27 PM
Perhaps it could use a clock spring mechanism that we wind up with a big key sticking out the back of the backpack. :lol:

EDG
2007-Jul-17, 09:38 PM
I'm starting to think this might be too much of a pain now :). I'd like people to be able to get to this artifact somehow, but it's proving a lot more difficult than I initially suspected for them to be able to do it! That said, that may be the point of the artifact - if living beings can figure out how to get to it then they're smart enough to be worthy of its attention :).

Bob B.
2007-Jul-17, 10:35 PM
I'm starting to think this might be too much of a pain now :).

I don’t think it would be that difficult, it would just take some time to engineer and build the systems. The hydrogen peroxide/turbine system I talked about is old technology – a similar system was used to drive the turbopumps on the V-2 missile. You would just need to build a smaller version into a backpack. All the machinery could be gear- or belt-driven off a common turbine shaft. Everything else is just tubing, valves, regulators, etc. The valves have to be manually operated so their placement is an important consideration – perhaps housed in a unit worn on the chest.

JonClarke
2007-Jul-17, 10:46 PM
The idea is that there's some kind of weird armwavy ultratech field that dampens electrical activity around the artifact. I guess it should technically affect living beings too (given that we have electrical signals in our brains etc).

Sounds a lot like Patrick Tilley's "Fade Out" which explored this idea. You would get round the problem of electrical signals in the servous system but postulating a but off level in terms of voltage, amperage, etc.

Jon

JonClarke
2007-Jul-17, 10:55 PM
Some ideas:

If there is gravity you don't need fans for ventilation. Convection should take care of that. Cooling would be a OK if there is gravity. Convection should be able to drive a basic cooling system, and could be griven by convection. probably but well, but it doesn't have to be perfect, just good enough. But people could alsd simply have to regulate their activity to prevent overheating.

Or you could have mechanical counterpresure suits which may not need any kind of cooling at all, beyond the body's own.

The O2 rebreather used by divers until the 60's did not need electronics, just simple mechanics and chemistry.

For mechanical power there are steam turbines, gas turbines, deisel engines.

I like the idea of depriving high tech explorers of their electronics as a kind of intelligence/survival test.

Jon

EDG
2007-Jul-17, 11:02 PM
Hmm, OK, you've swayed me :). I don't have to describe the exact workings of the "mechanical" tech in detail, I just needed to know if it was even possible to get a purely "mechanical" spacesuit working.

Thanks!

grant hutchison
2007-Jul-17, 11:10 PM
How long do your guys need to be able to use this suit for?
In the dear dead days of yore in anaesthesia, we used to run medical gases to our patients using a cylinder supply and nothing but mechanical linkages to step down the cylinder pressure and regulate the flow. It was an open system, and therefore wasteful as phunk says, but you'd get a couple of hours out of a big, luggable 137-bar oxygen cylinder. You watched the gauge and plugged in a new one when it started to run low. But if you run on nothing but oxygen, and scrub carbon dioxide with a chemical absorber, then there's no reason you couldn't recycle the expired gas: it's not like you're going to get a hypoxic mixture if there's only oxygen in the suit and you regulate the pressure with a mechanical valve.
If your guys have a long distance to travel under these circumstances, then maybe they can cache oxygen cylinders in the same way Antarctic expeditions used to cache food and fuel ahead of time.

If basic electrics work, then a fuel cell would let you transduce oxygen partial pressure into an electrical signal that could be displayed by a simple deflecting needle.

Temperature regulation ... Bob B. has offered what's probably needed: a way to dump heat without using an electric pump. I must say when I first read your post I rather fancied painting half the suit white and half black (perhaps with a big dorsal fin similarly painted), and requiring the astronauts to change posture relative to the sun for temperature regulation. You get too hot, you have to walk backwards for a while ...

Grant Hutchison

EDG
2007-Jul-18, 06:50 AM
Long enough :) - a few hours tops probably. Course, another problem is that the artifact is at the top of an entire mountainside of stone stairs...

novaderrik
2007-Jul-18, 07:57 AM
why not have the resident alien language expert learn a totally new alien language in 5 minutes and push a bunch of buttons in the proper order to shut off the field that is protecting them?
to learn how this works, watch the last 10 minutes of pretty much any random episode of Stargate:SG1 and see how Daniel Jackson saves the day at the end.

djellison
2007-Jul-18, 09:08 AM
it could be pumped by their leg movements.

Sit down, and die.

Sounds like more of a torture mechanism rather than a life support system.

Doug

eburacum45
2007-Jul-18, 09:21 AM
Given a well-developed genetic enginneering technology, a biotech suit would work fine for just such a for just such an emergency.

This would replace any control systems and mechanical pumps with nerves and muscular pumps. If the suit didn't work then neither would the occupant.

phunk
2007-Jul-18, 08:46 PM
Yes I'm too used to thinking in scuba terms, where at higher pressure O2 becomes deadly. A rebreather used in a low pressure environment could be as simple as pure O2 with a CO2 scrubber. No electronics required to monitor O2 levels. Just need a pressure gauge.

Maksutov
2007-Jul-19, 11:45 AM
Long enough :) - a few hours tops probably. Course, another problem is that the artifact is at the top of an entire mountainside of stone stairs...Simple.

Just get a couple thousand extremists of whatever particular flavor they are in that part of your imaginary universe, promise them the required number of virgins, and then deploy them at the top of the mountain sans spacesuits. Some will get through and complete the mission.

Sleepy
2007-Jul-20, 12:36 AM
You could do like old diving suits with umbilicals, but there's a reason we don't make diving suits with umbilicals any more. Same reasons apply to space suits.Thats wrong. Commercial divers still use umbilicals on deep dives to supply comms, heat (via hot water) and the gas to breathe.
The O2 rebreather used by divers until the 60's did not need electronics, just simple mechanics and chemistry.All modern electronic rebreathers are designed to be manually operated if there is a total systems failure. It can be as basic as counting breaths and opening a value every so often.

Completely mechanical rebreathers are also still built and have set many of the current world records in cave diving.

Supplying the suit with a breathing mix without power is simplicity. The problem becomes one of endurance, can the explorer carry the neccessary weight that a non fully closed rebreather requires to accomplish the mission with a suitable safety margin? And to answer this question you need to know if your suit exposes the wearer to ambient pressure or isolates the wearer from the external pressure.

Van Rijn
2007-Jul-20, 01:14 AM
Small flywheels and gearing could supply power to pumps if needed. For communication inside and to outside the zone, use chemical lamps and blinkers. Outside the zone, you'd have a big lamp to send blink messages to the people in the zone, and a telescope to watch them.