Challenge: To make a Rough Science space suit, and
provide it with a cooling system – the ultimate
test – for Ellen to do a “space walk”
in Death Valley.
This programme’s challenge could have been very
awkward for all of us because none of us felt like we
knew what we were doing, or at least none of us were
experts in the area. But as it turned out it was a very
good day and we all got a long way.
Kathy, Iain and Mike have made up a vacuum system,
found zeolite in the hills around and have also tried
extracting it from washing powder. This will be the
basis for a fridge, which will cool the water for our
cooling system. Ellen and I have made up a small pump
which we hope will be able to move the cooled water
to the suit.
At the end of the day Kathy had a vacuum system that
could go to about 95% atmospheric pressure (i.e. the
pump could remove 5% or so of the air) using just a
small hand pump. Ellen and I were able to push water
around a small loop of plastic and you could see the
small air bubbles moving along nicely. We had decided
to make one of those pumps that are used to make liquids
flow. It works by a series of roller bars squashing
a plastic tube in such a way that there is a forward
squashing motion so that the water inside the tube is
We made use of an electric screwdriver to provide the
power and fitted a large Allen key into the hexagonal
shaft. This went to a small device we made up which
looks like a small water wheel. This has six bolts that
go across the wheel and it is upon these that the rollers
are free to move. These parts were fixed to a piece
of wood so that when the rollers moved they came close
but did not quite touch the wooden base. A plastic tube
was then threaded between the rollers and the base,
so that as the driver turned, the rollers moved and
the tube squashed, providing the "pumping action".
Such a hot day today. It was 38 degrees Celsius in
the shade of the workshop and there was no breeze. Everyone
was affected by it and in the worst time in the afternoon
it makes you feel really strange and slightly irritated.
I found that my brain just sort of slowly turned off!