10 June 2010

Mission to Mars

Speaker: Constance Adams - Synthesis International: Techne and Logos at the Edge of Space

There’s thinking big and thinking BIG, but nothing is as big as Space so it was an intriguing start to the event to hear from Constance Adams, a specialist in high performance architecture, design and innovation for human spaceflight…..in other words, a spaceship designer! She’s the scientist everyone wants to be when they’re a kid – a Nasa consultant and her talk was about the craft of designing and building an environment that humans can survive in on a mission to Mars.

But we’re not talking mini modelling….as Constance explained, when you’re designing for space flight, you need to create full-scale models. She’s been involved in designing prototypes of full size living quarters for six astronaut to survive a 180 days trip to Mars for 15 years. Her work involves designing and testing everything an astronaut could possibly need on their space mission. Making furniture for variable gravity, thinking about sleeping and eating: all these things need to be designed on the ground through physical prototyping – that makes a lot of sense….but there’s also other aspects to consider.

Sending things to space is hugely expensive; it costs an estimated $50,000 to orbit a kilo of weight so space travel literally is ‘travelling light.’ But how does an astronaut know what they might need..for example what if a lighbtbulb blows…..taking lots of spare light bulbs would be expensive, what if they were able to make their own while they were up there?? (It’s not like they can be couriered supplies…)

DIY space crafting is just one of the areas Constance is looking into – equipping astronaut with knowledge to make things to help them survive, doing simple DIY with materials they have with them just as we may do an odd job with things we have lying around, the same is possible in space and was done once when a solar ray needed repairing - the team figured it out.

To conclude she left us with some words from Scrimshaw ‘craft keeps you sane in long slow hours’….spending 180 days in space can obviously get dull, although the team are busy completing specific tasks the novelty factor of looking out of the window wears off after a couple of days. So what could our astronauts get up to in their down time?? What about doing some hobby crafting??? Anything is possible in space design, every material would need to be prototyped (they already need space pens as an ordinary biro doesn’t work in space!)..so space friendly knitting needles wouldn’t be so peculiar.

It would certainly inspire them visually, most space rockets after all have totlaly whitewashed walls so it’s hard to know when your upside down or not….but brightly patterned interior fabric panels could change this.

What a fascinating insight. It’s so rare you get to hear from someone who’s job is something to do with Space….but to find someone who’s talking about the relationship between space and craft? The symposium is already living up to it’s name….it’s definitely about Future Craft.

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