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Jonathan's Spacesuit Diary Day 1 2 3

Day Three

The morning sees a great RS team effort to try out the experiment again. We try alcohol instead of water, try modifying the connections to get better vacuum and even try modifying the apparatus so that the vacuum draws in air through a small tube and onto the liquid to blow-evaporate – this worked but only dropped the temp by a couple of degrees. Mike deploys his alternative “ammonium chloride” solution, and at last we have some cooling.

Ellen and I look at the problem of making the suit and making sure all the tubes out in the open are as insulated as possible. We all make up an insulated box on wheels for the equipment and cover it in aluminium foil – it looks “amazing”.

In the afternoon, feeling slightly under-prepared and wishing we had much more time, we pack all the equipment into the four wheel drives and head off to Death Valley. Its only 40 degrees Celsius in Death Valley today, amazing views coming down into the place and the scenery is very other worldly. On the way down Kathy puts the water container in a cloth bag and wets the bag periodically so that evaporation will cool the water.

We set up everything on site. The production team have chosen a salt pan in the middle of the Valley. Ellen puts on the suit and I wire a thermocouple to measure the temperature of the water close to her. Before we close the lid on the machine Mike B puts some ammonium chloride into the cool water which cools it down further. We pump on the device so that the water will remain insulated by the vacuum. Meanwhile, when we turn on the circulation pump Ellen immediately feels the cooling effect of the cool water being pumped around!!

So she starts to walk off into the distance the crew have a thermal imaging camera and it clearly shows the lower temps of Ellen’s body. Death Valley is at 40 degrees Celsius while Ellen is at 24 degrees Celsius – a result! The wheels on the fridge trolley weren’t so reliable though, and as Ellen moves away she end up having to drag the things over the salty pan …. A hilarious end to a grand three days.

The Next Day

Spend the day alone in the Alabama Hills (Mallory style) which are very near to Lone Pine. There is a nice breeze up hear and spectacular views. When I look south I have the High Sierra Nevada to my right, climbing to 3000m asl with perhaps 100 miles of peaks around me filling the panorama. To the left I have the open desert with the long empty road leading to the Rough Science mine and the distant Death Valley. Up here surrounded by the strange rock formations and fantastic views I can really relax. The winds are blowing on the desert floor a few miles away. It used to be a lake before the water was drained to supply Las Vegas with water. All that remains is a small brackish pond to the south. The salt and dust left behind is kicked up by the wind and as I observed the view a dust storm funnel moving slowly toward me. Storm clouds are brewing up on the Sierra Nevada’s and even though I am high up here it is so hot that the odd spot of rain is refreshing. However the downpour arrives and I head off to find shelter in a cave made out of three enormous rock boulders. I sit hear for an hour, perhaps two meditating and watching – just watching. In that place I would have liked to disappear for a month or two – to just watch / observe its ever-changing colours, animals and scenery.

Over the valley towards the desert there is a wonderful place. 10,000 years ago the lake was very deep and at that time this magical place was probably the lake side. Here there are marble cliffs and upon them are ancient carvings and drawings that the Native American peoples have carved so long ago. When I got back later on in the day I started to sketch out some designs based on the art work I had seen here and in books.

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