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Jonathan's Spacesuit Diary Day 1 2 3

Day One

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 squeezed along.

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!



The spacesuit works!
Scientists Diaries

How did the rest of the Rough Scientists approach the spacesuit task? Find out in their diaries: