Practical for a civilian to build a space suit?

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This is for a novel I'm writing. In it, the Earth has been separated from the Sun. At this point there is still an atmosphere (at perhaps 50% of normal pressure) but the temperature has fallen to somewhere around -150 centigrade. My question is this: Could a technologically savvy private citizen, after research, with a year's warning, build an insulated suit that would allow him to be outside for several hours? If so, what form would the suit take?
 

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I'd probably think of multiple layers of thick cloth with some of the outer layers epoxied together, but it would restrict movement at the joints. The joints I'd probably think of some kind of metal slippage with a rubber-like seal, similar to the rubber you see on windshield wipers.

That's what I come up with from thinking about it for a few minutes. But one thing I don't know - is it even necessary to pressurize the suit against 0.5 atm pressure? It might be sufficient to develop a highly insulated suit. This I think would be much simpler, as you could epoxy the outer cloth layers in segments such that the joints aren't restricted, and you could add a wiring system to the bottom layer to create a "heated blanket" effect that would be nice and toasty, with battery power of course. And obviously a ventilation system would be necessary, but that's pretty trivial I think.
 
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At 0.5 atm, there are many moredifficult challenges than making a space suit.
 
  • #5
russ_watters
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At 50% of normal atmospheric pressure, the suit doesn't need to be pressurized!
 
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At the time in question, the individuals are living underground and need a way to work and travel above ground for a few hours. The suit - which wouldn't need to be pressurized at half normal atmospheric pressure - would have to be pressurized later when the oxygen and nitrogen liquify, and at that point an oxygen supply would have to be carried, and the underground bunker would have to be pressurized.
 
  • #7
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Very practical actually
At 50% of normal atmospheric pressure, the suit doesn't need to be pressurized!
you don't need a space suit for this, people go to everest with just oxygen masks (~1/3 the pressure on the surface at 0m).

I recommend doing research on thermal materials (emergency foil blanket is a good place to start) and Scuba systems as well as CO2 scrubbing. Also a good starting point would be to build an underground base complete with hydroponics and what not. Good research material would be mars bases and what not.

As for the suit i recommend you watch this :http://www.parabolicarc.com/2010/01/09/video-dava-newman-shows-flexible-spacesuit-design/

I really look forward to your novel, Im a sucker for a post-apocalyptic story :smile:
 
  • #8
Ryan_m_b
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Also a good starting point would be to build an underground base complete with hydroponics and what not. Good research material would be mars bases and what not.
Long term survival of the human race without Earth would be far more complex; see the discussion in this thread https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=625503
 
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The suit - which wouldn't need to be pressurized at half normal atmospheric pressure - would have to be pressurized later when the oxygen and nitrogen liquify [...]
More detailed explanation, please.
 
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This is for a novel I'm writing. In it, the Earth has been separated from the Sun. At this point there is still an atmosphere (at perhaps 50% of normal pressure) but the temperature has fallen to somewhere around -150 centigrade. My question is this: Could a technologically savvy private citizen, after research, with a year's warning, build an insulated suit that would allow him to be outside for several hours? If so, what form would the suit take?
Mountain climbers use low-tech goose and duck down. Use enough to look like the Michelin man, that might do it. Boots with cork soles a foot thick, maybe. You'd need some way to heat the air so it didn't freeze the lungs.
 
  • #11
Ryan_m_b
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Mountain climbers use low-tech goose and duck down. Use enough to look like the Michelin man, that might do it. Boots with cork soles a foot thick, maybe. You'd need some way to heat the air so it didn't freeze the lungs.
You seem to be missing the -150°C stipulation, that's 100° lower than the coldest place on Earth! I may be wrong here but a space suit has the advantage of the vacuum for insulation, in an atmosphere at half pressure convection and conduction will make it harder to maintain heat. In otherwords on the heat issue alone this may be harder than a space suit.
 
  • #12
chasrob
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You know, you could just buy one, from the folks who manufacture them for NASA. I don't have the link, but on a forum, a scientist familiar with government/industry commerce said that the manufacturing outfit would only charge $10,000 or so for a suit if you're a citizen, versus a million for NASA :eek:.
 
  • #13
Ryan_m_b
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That doesnt sound right at all. Are you sure they aren't just selling off used ones as novelty items?
 
  • #15
Ryan_m_b
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Hmm....thinking on this more it occurs to me that this scenario represents a significant plot hole in your story. Correct me if I'm wrong but your setting is:

- Due to an as yet undetermined catastrophe (black hole into sun, Earth flyby of massive object etc) the Earth is due to lose most/all the energy from the sun. This will result in temperatures plummeting until the Earth is back to something resembling the snowball of its early life.

- With the remaining decades/century left to them the peoples of Earth pour trillions of dollars and billions of manhours into the research and development of sustainable closed ecosystems and socioeconomic models so as to build minimally/optimally populated, self sufficient cities.

- Once research starts hitting deployable level they build/retrofit cities capable of keeping a few million people alive each even without the sun.

So long as I haven't got the wrong end of something the reason why I think this set up precludes your scenario is that in this situation there are not amateur survivalists. It's just not possible. You either live in one of the extremely high tech (note that does not necessarily mean nice to live in socially or aesthetically) cities maintained by their large population of specialist workers required to keep the technology/industry/ecology going or you're dead. If someone from the city needs to go outside they can use an extreme survival suit built in the city's internal factories. I can't think of a scenario where someone would have to cobble together bits and pieces to make their own.
 
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D H
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This is for a novel I'm writing. In it, the Earth has been separated from the Sun.
Somebody wrote this exact novel a long time ago. I can't remember the name of the novel or of the author. Synopsis: The Earth somehow became separated from the Sun. The atmosphere eventually froze. Almost everyone died. The book tracked one family that survived. They used layers and layers of blankets for insulation. These layers and layers of blankets also kept the air in their house from bleeding out too quickly. They had to occasionally venture outside in leaky home-made space suits to dig for water, oxygen, and nitrogen in the frozen-out atmosphere and to dig for food at a grocery store that escaped the worst of the apocalypse. At the end of the novel they were found by scientists who had the technology to build a sealed environment, make real space suits, etc.
 
  • #17
D H
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Found it. It was a short story, not a novel. A Pail of Air written in 1951 by Fritz Leiber.
 
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Ryan, the reason that our hero needs to build (or buy) a sort of space suit is that he and his family weren't selected as residents of the city. He buys property close to one of the cities and digs a hole and somehow (details to be worked out, but probably involving a generator and fuel hoarding plus canned food) manages to keep his family alive for six months or so, with a plan to trek to the underground city and show his pitiful entourage to the city's external cameras (originally necessary to prepare for the possibility of non-residents storming the barricades) in hopes that they need his particular skill set or let them in out of Christian charity.
 
  • #20
Ryan_m_b
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Ryan, the reason that our hero needs to build (or buy) a sort of space suit is that he and his family weren't selected as residents of the city. He buys property close to one of the cities and digs a hole and somehow (details to be worked out, but probably involving a generator and fuel hoarding plus canned food) manages to keep his family alive for six months or so, with a plan to trek to the underground city and show his pitiful entourage to the city's external cameras (originally necessary to prepare for the possibility of non-residents storming the barricades) in hopes that they need his particular skill set or let them in out of Christian charity.
Fair enough.
 
  • #21
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Ryan, thanks for that link to the short story. Very cool. Of course by the time the oxygen had frozen or liquified, a pressurized space suit would have been necessary to go outside. And geothermal power - which was just becoming reality in 1951 - is a better choice than nuclear for the long term.

One thing I'm still trying to clarify is what the surface would be like after the temperature drops enough to liquify and then freeze oxygen and nitrogen. My guess is that oxygen and nitrogen would flow like water when they liquify, seeking lower levels, perhaps collecting into rivers that reach the oceans, if snow and ice didn't impede them. So maybe there wouldn't be a thick layer of liquid or frozen gases everywhere. I'm having trouble figuring out what sort of scientific discipline might have already worked this out.
 
  • #22
Ryan_m_b
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Ryan, the reason that our hero needs to build (or buy) a sort of space suit is that he and his family weren't selected as residents of the city. He buys property close to one of the cities and digs a hole and somehow (details to be worked out, but probably involving a generator and fuel hoarding plus canned food) manages to keep his family alive for six months or so, with a plan to trek to the underground city and show his pitiful entourage to the city's external cameras (originally necessary to prepare for the possibility of non-residents storming the barricades) in hopes that they need his particular skill set or let them in out of Christian charity.
Out of curiosity can you think of a believable reason they would not get let in? I'm struggling...
 
  • #23
HallsofIvy
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I can't speak for Russia but all space suits used in the United States were made by civilians! Perhaps you mean something else?
 
  • #24
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Out of curiosity can you think of a believable reason they would not get let in? I'm struggling...
With five years or so warning, there would be a limit on how many underground cities could be built. So only a portion of the total population could be supported by the infrastructure. A lot of people would try to gain admission to the cities once the Earth was no longer in the solar system and the cold started to get severe. Initially the cities simply couldn't afford to let in people who didn't have a ticket, or the chances for survival for everybody would be diminished. At first they would turn everyone away who begged to get in, heart wrenching as it would be. But after a few months, they would no longer be in danger of being overrun, so those who had survived and were able to get to the bunker would probably be welcomed.
 
  • #25
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I can't speak for Russia but all space suits used in the United States were made by civilians! Perhaps you mean something else?
What I was asking was whether an individual person not associated with an engineering firm would be able to build outfits for his family that would allow them to walk around and breathe for several hours at temperatures well below -100 C.
 

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