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Space

Inflatable Toys in Space 124

Alexey Goldin writes "An inflatable heatshield --- a new technology with a potential to make space access cheaper will be tested on Feb. 9 by Lavochkin Association (Russia) and DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (Germany). A new word in inflatable toys business :-). " This ranks up there with the Mars Pathfinder, where they just surrounded the lander in airbags and let it drop - elegant engineering at its finest.
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Inflatable Toys in Space

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I can't believe somebody actually moderated this up as funny. This is the kind of offensive trash that detracts from the reasonable, serious discussion that makes Slashdot what it is. I sort to put high scores first in order to read some good insights relating to the story posted, and, more and more often these days, I'm finding this to be a useless tactic, because some worthless moderator has decided to moderate up a bunch of pithy comments into the top. All the serious comments are stuck down at 1 and 0 with the trolls and spam. This one in particular annoyed me because it makes a reference to inflatable sex toys -- could we try and be a little more offensive, please? Not all of us want to read these things.

    So please think a little more before posting unfunny, offensive dreck, and moderators, use some discretion one of these days.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is exactly the sort of sad experiment that everybody loves to get worked up about, but that almost always ends up being a dismal failure.

    I looked through their (very flashy, nearly content-free) website, and the very little information I found made me extremely skeptical about this little experiment's chance of success. It's fairly self-evident that if you want to return anything successfully, you need a damn good heat shield. There have been experiments very similar to this one run before (by groups such as NASA and Boeing Aerospace), with very little fanfare -- and for a good reason. They've all been spectacular failures, with the heat shield losing integrity less than a minute into descent in the most successful one.

    There doesn't appear to be anything much different about this one. Who knows, it just might work. But I'm not counting on it.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Gundam project, a sci-fi/fantasy site, has this to say:

    Meanwhile, a less elaborate device is used to enable mobile suits to survive the intense heat and shock of atmospheric re-entry - an strap-on contraption called a ballute, which includes an inflatable heat shield and a set of parachute packs and braking thrusters to soften the landing.

    AND 26 years before Aurthur Clarke's 2010 novel, there was a little outfit named NASA who had these ideas in 1959:

    Memo, Leonard Rabb to Chief, Flight Systems Div., "Heat Shield Performance," Oct. 7, 1959. Bond, interview, Houston, Sept. 22, 1965 . See also "Results of Studies Made to Determine Required Retrorocket Capability," NASA Project Mercury working paper No. 102, Sept. 22, 1959. In addition, Alan B. Kehlet directed Dennis F.Hasson to investigate an inflatable sphere to accomplish the decrease in decay time for a retrofire failure and to stabilize the capsule in the event of a control system failure. This study was published as NASA Project Mercury working paper No. 113, "Preliminary Study Using Inflatable Spheres for Aerodynamic Stabilization During Reentry," Nov. 18, 1959.

    So, its time has finally come. I suppose the Daimler balloon is going to be more sohpistocated than anything that could be built in '59.

    And if it goes well, we could have commercial balluting expeditions. Go to the top of the atmosphere, jump out of space ship with personal ballute, land in a wheat field somewhere in Russia. Nice jump.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    #include

    char *n="\n";
    char *b="\\";
    char *q="\"";
    char *p="#include %s%schar *n=%s%sn%s;%schar *b=%s%s%s%s;%schar *q=%s%s%s%s;%schar *p=%s%s%s;%s%smain()%s{%sprintf(p,n,n,q,b,q,n,q,b, b,q,n,q,b,q,q,n,q,p,q,n,n,n,n,n,n);%s}%s ";

    main()
    {
    printf(p,n,n,q,b,q,n,q,b,b,q,n,q,b,q,q,n,q,p,q,n ,n,n,n,n,n);
    }
  • I respect her,

    Mind for engineering
    Career ambitions (commercial pilot)
    and her good looks.

    She's got to be one of the coolest girls sounding girls I've seen on the web. How do they say it ...IDDG...?

    I've actualy known only a few good looking female engineers. I don't know why that is, but I do know how uncool it is to be a smart girl. "It'll intimidate the guys" Cosmo says.

    I can count four including this woman. Then all that about the super model of the 40's who helped invent spread spectrum technology.

    If she is reading this, I'm one who is in her fan club. I respect any good looking woman who isn't afraid to use her mind.
    ^~~^~^^~~^~^~^~^^~^^~^~^~~^^^~^^~~^~~~^~~^~
  • Nope. If that were the case you wouldn't use your common sense and you would do the same old things over and over again (with a few minor modifications like prettier graphics) and you'd just claim it was innovation.

  • Dang, it turned out to be another boring space technology story. I was really hoping for a follow to December's Sex In Space [slashdot.org] story...
  • This is one of the arguments put forth for the replacement US HAB module: TransHab... It is an inflatable two-story habitat module for the ISS. It's launched deflated and crammed into the shuttle cargo bay and inflated to 5-7 times it's original volume once in orbit.

    It has done significantly better than the normal ISS hard-walled modules in impact tests.

    Inflatable structures are yet another areospace technology that has been almost completely ignored for the last 30 years. There was significant research done during the late 50s and early 60s...but it was all abandoned when Apollo came around. Then it was never picked back up, as nasa was too busy wasting their time with the shuttle.

  • I'd like to know if NASA looked at inflatables for use as ISS crew return vehicles. Some of the earliest applications of this technology were designs for single-man emergency reentry craft. Some designs were little more then a guy in a space suit with the shield strapped to his back and a retro back strapped to his chest.

    I'd be willing to bet they dismissed it out of hand, if they even looked at it at all.
  • Yet another example of why brand new boosters shouldn't fly real payloads on their first launches. We seem to have forgotten this fact....
  • This (TransHab is what you're talking about) has been canceled by congress. The only way it will fly is if nasa can find private funds to pay for it.

    As if that wern't bad enough, congress has now cut funding for the original ISS Hab module as well. So unless TransHab makes it, ISS will only be able to support a 3 person crew.

    This is a serious bummer. TransHab is one of the few truly worthwhile elements of the whole ISS program.
  • This IS privately funded (as much as Russia can privately fund).

    Well, the experiment is, but the launch isn't.

    The ability to return/reuse spent first stages, instead of burning them up in the atmosphere, seems like one of the most interesting aspects.

    Uh, first stanges generally don't burn up... they just don't survive impact very well. In this case they are trying to recover the upper stage. First stages can easily (well, as easy as anything ever is in spaceflight) be recovered with parachutes.

  • Every time they do that I can't help thinking it would have been cheaper to rent a boat and dump the spacecraft in the ocean.
  • Okay, I'll be the first to admit 'opensourceman' is, for the most part, a wanker, but I just had to laugh (even though it made little sense in context) at "cuosnpist: i was not elected to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this in a comittee!" :)
  • Neat!
  • Look here [slashdot.org]
  • by X-Nc ( 34250 )
    Didn't they use something like this in 2010 with the breaking thingie (that's a technical term) they used in Jupiters atmosphear?

    ---
  • Hmm... I submitted this one a couple of weeks ago...
  • My thought exactly as soon as I saw the post. 2010 device on the Russian spacecraft. Was never sure if he invented it or if he had heard about it and it sounded good for the plot.

  • An inflatable heat shield in an environment (entering the atmosphere) with changing pressure? Sounds like an expensive but fun test to watch.
  • For those who didn't read the whole article:
    A unique software developed by Dasa Bremen will enable every internet user to follow "Mission 2000" over the distance of more than 100.000 miles in real time. The website www.return-home.com is activated on January 21, and contains information about the mission. The flight simulation opens on the day of the launch at 6.p.m..

    I went to http://www.return-home.com to see if what platforms are supported, and what license the software is released under, and found that the site won't run on win95 w/ IE 3.0 (my @work setup), I think because of Javascript. If there is any content that needs javascript, I would like to know, but it looks like they've used it because they were lazy.

    With this in mind I don't see much chance of there being anything but Win95 and possibly Mac clients on the site... shame because while the idea of being able to pretend pilot the mission is gimicky, I would like to watch the mission through the net.
  • Hey, don't bash Lander's Airbags...it's thru looking down the line from the other end that we will discover new ways to do things, things that were not possible before. Here's another crazy invention: you put people in it and go up in the sky and fly around. It's called an airplane, and yes I did rip that from Contact.
  • Blame it on whoever posted the story. Any headline with the word Inflatable will always generate jokes about sex toys.

    Lighten up. Just because you are offended by jokes about sex toys, doesn't mean that everyone is. If you are really that humorless, just skip over posts with a rating of "Funny."

    user@host 1% make love
  • main(){char q=34, n=10,*a="main() {char q=34,n=10,*a=%c%s%c;printf(a,q,a,q,n);}%c";printf( a,q,a,q,n);}

    Apologies for lack of newlines -- this is the actual output. It's shorter because it takes advantage of using the ASCII numbers instead of quoting quotes, and the like. Yours is pretty cool too -- I hadn't seen one that just uses characters. Here's one more in Scheme/Lisp:

    ((lambda (x) (list x (list (quote quote) x))) (quote (lambda (x) (list x (list (quote quote) x)))))
  • What a load of crap! Everyone knows that:
    - The Gulf War was filmed in Arizona and the Pathfinder Mission was filmed in Persia.
    - Sissy Spacek wasn't in Taxi Driver 2. It was Tina Yothers.
    - Martin Sheen is the current president. The whole Clinton thing is just to keep people from finding out who's really in control.
    - William McKinley wasn't murdered. He's still alive and teaching ballet in Beruit.
    - Strom Thurmond couldn't have had anything to do with the Racquetball Reform Bill. He was too busy faking the Spanish-American War.

    Other than that, you've got it pretty much right. 7:^)

  • ... is a babe! Still, it would be neato if the technology works. They seem to think it has a shot -- elsewise why offer to let 100k+ people follow it on the web?

    I still think the roton is the coolest idea out there (www.rotaryrocket.com).

  • Um...the guy was serious. Pathfinder was a remarkable feat of engineering.
  • If I'm not mistaken, this is part of the Cluster Satellite [www.dasa.de] project, investigating "the Earth's magnetic field and its interaction with the solar wind."


    Pablo Nevares, "the freshmaker".
  • Why not privatize space travel, I'm sure that old age homes and honeymoon places will pop up almost overnight.

    Private industry can attempt to put old age homes and honeymoon places in space now. What is stopping them?

  • These are not exactly new ideas. I worked on
    inflatable aerobrake studies in
    the early 1980s. It was a cover story in
    Popular Science in the mid-80's, and my boss was
    a technical consultant for the movie 2010, which
    had the spacecraft aerobrake into Jupiter orbit.
    Slow aerobraking, without special hardware for
    the braking part, has been done by the Venus
    Radar Mapper and more recently by the Mars
    Global Surveyor.

    Inflatables are even older. Somewhere in my files
    is a report by Goodyear (of course) dating to the
    1960's on inflatable space hardware, like space
    station modules with a hard cylindrical core
    with the life support equipment, surrounded by
    a inflatable donut which became the living
    space.

    Daniel
  • I thought once you moderated, you couldn't add a comment anywhere in the story discussion, and vice-versa.
    of course, I could be completely mistaken....

    SaintAlex



    Observe, reason, and experiment.
  • redundant? how's that?
    freaking idiot moderators.
    yet - notice how the ACoward gets an "insightful", and no "redundant", despite his near carbon copy because "slashdot deleted my subject" or some irrevalent crap.
    this makes me more and more a fan of anti moderation/and/or/AC posts.



    Observe, reason, and experiment.
  • realdoll isn't inflatable. It's like a big sillicon corpse... yum (erm, or not).



    Observe, reason, and experiment.
  • I'm not an expert on planetary re-entry or anything, but wouldn't the decreased density just change the parameters of a traditional air brake approach? Does the thin air make it so that you don't need much of a heat sheild? Instead of going straight in, maybe we go in on a trajectory that enters the "thick" part of the atmosphere at a tangent. Then you might get away with a sheild only big enough to bleed off speed to pop a chute and land...

    Dunno if the sheild is smaller this way or not, but it seems like the thinner air is freeing in some ways..

    Cheers!

    Termi

  • WOW
    I just finished watching 2010 on Space: The Imagination Station, and saw that inflatable Russian heat shield. Coincidence? I think not.

    Note: No Microsoft programs were used in the creation or distribution of this message. If you are using a Microsoft program to view this message, be forewarned that I am not responsible for any harm you may encounter as a result.
  • Okay, I like this one a lot better.
  • Consider this love (oh-whoah-whoah)
    It is like a flower in thw inter, and a friar-tucking mother. But why wait, if the yingnews were to become one with the fruity noonoo and l;kjf bjjlklda asdfdsf870987_))))))))))))))

    Start over:
    I think this is a good idea, but obviously (see above) it can lead to some confusion if you don't state it in terms that everyone (birds, bees, men, women) can understand: common, plain, and decent English. Why not let us use this medium of communication? Because it is the secondary nomenclature that we enjoy.

    Please, to be helping your neighbor
    zeusjr
  • The same way I believe this
    by first considering, that out of all the universe (say, apporximately 5 for exxample) I am only 1, and NASA, is well...at most 2. That leaves at least 2 more to do with as I please...but think of it also this way: "I am thinking about it this way (because it also is true beyond my doubts) and then I consider it also to be true....THer were many racquetball reform bills, but WHY DOI tyou think they would tell you about it? I mean, orshy really...

    Newton' slaw is the ifrst princple:
    1. Anytihnng that goes, uo, must also come down.
    Mars stuff whent up, and thent came down: no whoop! Can not make anything (i know of only no, I don't0 that would not come also doewn!!!!
    2. PLease to be taking out the trsh - considered the finest example of pre-Einsteiniean drivelmagnets, wmith the secondary option completeed can be used for families or friends as well (5c an minute, every day but ) well, I can't really accpe t that, but assuming it's true (which I don NOT) it will all come out quite differently.
    3. PLus, I donunt realize that you trhink the gnomes, elves, fairie, trolls, chickens, dogs, and feces cponsidre themselves blesses even HEAR me this!! I am NOW runnning for president (oif the united states or any larger body of believers )m ot be the president! My vp, will be someone else!!!

    Please to be voting for me,
    zeusjr
  • I had no relationship with them, but I will be letting them live lonely now,, zeusjr cries in the sorrow of his pain (which he has alos cause

    Please to be non-intereferatory
    zeusjr
  • As long as they're going cheap, they might as well put a cheap OS in it. Not like cheap crap, but good cheap stuff. We weighed the options-
    • What will it run?
    • OS/2 Warp- Pull your mug off of the CD and give it a spin.
    • Linux- Hey, it's free, why the hell not?
    • Windows 98- A good solid OS that only crashes every 30 seconds.
    • Windows 2000- Driver incompatibility, no way.
    • Unix- So far, the best option.
    • MacOS- Even the Russians would laugh at us.
    • DOS- Hmmmm, just another partition virus.
    • BeOS- Oh, hell yeah. BeOS 5.0 forever!

      My personnal vote goes to Be. But I'm just a free software jerk.


  • Be 5.0 is free to noncommercial users. duh.
  • Step right up Ladies and Gentlemen! Its new! Its wild! Its radically cheap! Be the first kid in our solar system to go splat against the face of the Earth at unbelievable velocities in the new amazing, phantasmagoric, too incredible to believe hypersonic Badminton shuttle.

    Ok folks if this works I will admit that it is one of the coolest inflatable inventions since the real doll, however, lets not rush out and try it with any humans (ok Mr. Gates, go right ahead) just yet !:)

  • They're actually developing modules for the ISS that are inflatable, and come fully furnished. The Learning Channel recently (or was it Discovery?) did a piece showing it being deployed inside one of their giant vacuum chambers. Instead of constantly repairing and upgrading parts of the station, they could just discard an old module and launch another relatively cheaply.
  • Ahh....but due to the lesser air pressure, much less pressure is needed inside the balloon, so It can be much larger far easier. Anyway, the main point is just to bound a lot on the ground anyway.
  • Finally, someone who understands what I MEANT to say! (you wouldn't happen to be an unattached Penthouse centerfold who just won the Lotto, would ya??)

    I was attempting to refer to the uppermost stage. [brainfade]
  • I just tried it with Win95/Netscape 4.7, and it promptly crashed Netscape as soon as I clicked on 'contest'.
    I'm not going to bitch to loudly - I hope they spend their time getting the mission right before they 'fix' the website.
  • It all depends on the braking effect of the inflatable shield. If the thing descends slowly enough everything should be fine. For instance, a parachutist doesn't need a heat shield either because he isn't reaching high enough speeds.
  • Is anybody else just all about cheap space travel? Unfortunately, i don't think things are much cheaper now than in '69, or am i mistaken? Oh sure, NASA is underfunded, but government isn't the best agency for creating new technology anyway, is it?

    Why not privatize space travel, I'm sure that old age homes and honeymoon places will pop up almost overnight.
  • Actually I gave it a 3. 1 for "inflatable", 1 for "sex", and 1 for "toy". Put them all together that's definitely a 3.
  • >Why not privatize space travel, I'm sure that >old age homes and honeymoon places will pop up >almost overnight. Sounds like a good reason to NOT privatise to me. Some things are definatly better left behind as mankind moves into space
  • Hehe, that was funny to watch. Three excellent mpeg movies. I loved the ending of the last one:)
  • 2010: Odyssey II.
    Inflatable heat shield for aerobraking.
    Science Fiction -> Science Fact.

    (Or it could be totally different, but I can't read the referenced site; either it's slashdotted or it requires JavaScript.)

  • I hope Michael's comment about Mars Pathfinder was sarcasm. One of the largest problems is that engineers often forget to use their common sense in cases when it COULD be used to solve a problem. Allowing yourself to listen to your common sense and evaluating even the wackiest solutions will often lead to INNOVATION. Being able to do the above is one of the biggest steps you can take to thinking of creative and new solutions to a problem.

    I personally am of the opinion that the solution to landing Mars Pathfinder was a brilliant one.

  • There are several designs described on Mark Wade's site:

    http://www.friends-partners.org/~mwade/craftfam/re scue.htm [friends-partners.org]
  • If I'm not mistaken, this is part of the Cluster Satellite project, investigating "the Earth?s magnetic field and its interaction with the solar wind."

    I think you mean Cluster II. The first one ended up in a swamp when the French Ariane 5 [arianespace.com] rocket blew up on its maiden flight due to a software bug. Parts of the instrument were actually recovered and are being used in the new mission under the name "Phoenix", a particularly apt use of the name. I say this only because I was working as a sysadmin at the UNH Space Science Center at the time. The SCC was building one of the instruments for Cluster. I remember a lot of people's dreams went down with that rocket.
  • This might be interesting, but I don't really think that it is insightful, inflatable protection was used on the Mars Pathfinder mission. It is not a question if it is practicle, it worked last year.


  • At first I thought someone was testing rubber duckies in zero-gravity water puddles [nasa.gov].
  • Actually, the TV show Voyager showed the extreme sport version of this: re-entry wearing only an armored space suit. None of this namby-pamby parachute-like heat shield. Just friction against your suit, varied based on how you choose to fly.
  • Not if you log out. It's the loophole that can't really be fixed.
  • This is documented in "The Odessy Files" by Clarke and Peter Hyams (the director of 2010). During the making of the film they corresponded by a primitve form of email and discussed a number of technical alternatives for the Jupiter Aerobraking sequence. Clarke originally wrote about a solid ablative heat shield for the Leonov. Hyams spent quite a lot of time looking into how the Jupiter sequences ought to look (e.g. the fluid dynamics for simulating the Jovian atmosphere), and IIRC it was he who read about the "ballute" as the inflatable heat shield was known. Or maybe a NASA scientist told him about it.

    Anyway, great book, great film.

    Paul.

  • Slightly off topic, but do you remember what France planned for the 100-year aniversary celebration of the Eiffel tower? I believe in 1997 or 1998. They were considering to send a balloon ring satellite into space, that would appear as big as the full moon Here [arizona.edu] is the only reference I found:
    Satellite debris also interferes with astronomical observations. The incredibly sensitive instruments professional astronomers use can be "thrown off" by passing satellites and man-made debris. Even more threatening, just recently the French were stopped from launching a huge balloon ring satellite to commemorate Paris' Eiffel Tower's one hundredth anniversary. Many astronomers opposed the ring satellite, as it would have been the size and visual brightness of the full Moon as viewed from the ground and would have interfered with observations. They were also concerned that it might start companies advertising in space with huge satellite "billboards", which some are considering! Along with light pollution on the ground from ever-growing cities, astronomers - and those who just enjoy looking at the stars - are having their work cut out for them.
    Those French! They didn't invent modesty ;-)
  • I believe the word is "ballute", a mix between a balloon and a parachute.
    --
  • Some time ago, I ran into a fellow who was designing a pressure-fed upper stage. He was investigating an inflatable nozzle for the engine. According to him, the conditions well downstream from the nozzle throat are cool enough for current materials to handle, and the huge increase in expansion ratio possible with an inflatable nozzle could give a substantial boost in engine thrust with the same fuel burn. This translates to more payload. On top of this, the inflatable nozzle is very compact compared to a rigid nozzle bell. I wonder what became of this?
    --
  • San Antonio, TX, uses inflatable emergency dams under several downtown buildings, in case of a flood problem along their narrow river-front.

    Some ice-breaking ships use inflatable bladders to nudge themselves up onto the ice, if I recall correctly.

    My last Dell computer (boo hiss blah blah) came in packaging materials that were bags of air, instead of foam, peanuts, or folded cardboard. Not a dynamic use, but still a continuing trend.

    Airbags in cars use inflation for dynamic cushioning, of course.

  • I had started to reply to this, listing some webpages which I could see stuff with Javascript turned off (once I had used the Javascript to navagate in with*).

    But then I noticed the contest with it's 'first 200 successful internet pilots' win, and the pointer to the VRML, and I began to wonder if this wasn't all a bit gimicky... and THEN when I tried to skip the VRML, they crashed my NN4.7 browser and I lost my partially composed post.

    So you're getting diddly. I'm not paying them much more mind until I see it in a mainstream article, preferrably NewScientist or something similar.


    (*) I don't know whether turning off Javascript in NN4.7 is similar enough to what IE 3 will do for you, but there were still a few URLs stuck in my OS copy and paste. Try these.

    http://www.return-home.com/English/ mission.html [return-home.com]
    http://www.return-home.com/Englis h/mission_2.html [return-home.com]
    http://www.return-home.com/Englis h/mission_3.html [return-home.com]
    http://www.return-home.com/English/inf o.html [return-home.com]
    http://www.return-home.com/English/i nfo_2.html [return-home.com]
    http://www.return-home.com/English/s terne.html [return-home.com]

  • Read The Fxxxxxx Article! This IS privately funded (as much as Russia can privately fund).
    This looks like an interesting experiment. I hope they don't get beat up to bad if it doesn't work flawlessly on the first pass. The ability to return/reuse spent first stages, instead of burning them up in the atmosphere, seems like one of the most interesting aspects. Might also remove any future excuses for adding to our pile of orbiting 'space junk'.
    I know NASA didn't have anything to do with this, but I have to believe the successfull use of airbags on Mars Lander 'inspired' this crew to go ahead with their experiment. THANK GOD NOBODY PATENTED THE CONCEPT (I hope).
    The most interesting part of the project, IMHO, is that they are allowing on-line 'pilots' to attempt to pilot a simulator in real-time with the flight test, and the first 100 to successfully land get a free 'wing commander' souvenir that was in space on the actual test vehicle! Count me in! Talk about the ultimate in Space Geek collectibles!
  • I have a painting on my wall, done in 1982, depicting a space station in the shape of a Benzine ring - six truncated icosahedrons (soccer balls) connected by tubes. It's double walled inflated Kevlar, foam-in-place sandwich construction with aluminized coatings inside and out. Total usable volue is about 95,000 cubic feet.

    It was designed so that the entire structure could be transported to orbit as a single Space Shuttle payload. A second Space Shuttle mission would be needed to bring up the 'internal furnishings'.

    The prooof-of-concept was supposed to be a Get-Away-Special (Payload #271). But the software firm I was using to fund the project became a money sink. In addition, officials at NASA asked that the project be delayed because it involved too many technologies that were new to them.

    Yes, inflatables hold great promise for use in space where all you want to do is maintain a comfortable shirtsleeve environment. There are significant challenges to be overcome, but that's what makes things interesting.

    Now for a prediction. Serious space endevours will be Open Source projects. Some might call it life under a microscope, but imagine the specification and design of a space project as open documents. Then the construction and testing being a streaming video feed. And of course the software would all be Open Source. You wouldn't want to vacation in an orbital hotel where a failure in closed source software could deprive you of oxygen.
  • Yes, but on that mission it was used as a cushion to make it bounce on impact, not to slow the impact. Part of what a heat shield does (abeit collaterally) is slow impact (usually greatly added by drag chutes, etc at a certain point).

    If it can be used for both, great. And in a thick atmosphere, hey... it would be easy to engineer it to get more bang for your buck. I was just saying that Mars wasn't a good candidate for this, and Mars is our next probably target.
  • by Effugas ( 2378 ) on Monday January 31, 2000 @06:38PM (#1316821) Homepage
    Using a gas to expand a solid such that surface area and pressurization meet certain criteria isn't a particularly ridiculous or childish notion. Those car tires you're driving on ain't exactly solid material!

    The great thing about inflating something is that, until it's necessary, it can be almost invisible. Many materials can be inflated to many times their compressed size, and still maintain properties that a given situation requires. The fact that their expansion involves temporary forces that would be impossible to deliver under any predeployed material can be quite a blessing as well.

    I always thought it'd be fascinating to have shipping material that operated is miniature airbags...whenever an excess shock was registered, the peanuts would pop and grow, absorbing the shockwave.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
    http://www.doxpara.com
  • by Signal 11 ( 7608 ) on Monday January 31, 2000 @06:56PM (#1316822)

    Overheard near Area 51:

    "Whadda mean there's an inflatable doll in orbit?"

    "Well, sir, atleast the aliens have a sense of humor."

    "Indeed, shoot another one down - we can't store these nukes forever."

    "Yes sir!"

  • by The Iconoclast ( 24795 ) on Monday January 31, 2000 @07:34PM (#1316823)
    Check out BOSS [cwru.edu] an inlatible satillite. BOSS stands for Big Occulting Steerable Satillite. It will let you do things like directly view earth-like planets in orbit around stars from 5 Parsecs (18 lightyears) away.

    A wealthy eccentric who marches to the beat of a different drum. But you may call me "Noodle Noggin."
  • by SEWilco ( 27983 ) on Monday January 31, 2000 @06:09PM (#1316824) Journal
    http://www.return-home.com/ [return-home.com] is live now and counting down to the flight.

    I remember these inflatable cones were proposed decades ago for space station lifeboats. An astronaut in a suit would be able to do an emergency re-entry with this technology. I think NASA was not considering full lifeboats due to mass and complexity -- they already have human-qualified life support spacesuits.

  • by SaintAlex ( 108566 ) on Monday January 31, 2000 @05:51PM (#1316825)
    next - one with fully articulatable joints and 3 orifaces!
    Can't wait!!! :)

    (resisting the urge to shout first post...)



    Observe, reason, and experiment.
  • by naloxone ( 142847 ) on Monday January 31, 2000 @06:59PM (#1316826)
    The atmosphere of Mars is about 6 millibars (about 150x less than Earth). An inflatable heat shield might save space and reduce mass, but it would have to inflate out into something really large to slow down descent through increased drag.

    Inflatable tech would work well as cushions to soften impact, and could save a lot of cash by reducing the weight of the probe, but this won't work well to slow impact, will it?

    Sure, Mars only has 1/3 the gravity of earth, but that still makes (with the cheesy math of 1/3 of 150x thinner) a 50x hit in efficiency in drag vs tests on earth. Plus, the probe will probably still have some of its momentum left from the trip to get there.

    Still, at a fraction of the cost, and super-compact, storage, it certainly couldn't hurt to pack along a few dozen cool inflatable extras on a probe. Go-Go-Gadget-Hand-Glider!
  • by Hrunting ( 2191 ) on Monday January 31, 2000 @08:17PM (#1316827) Homepage
    The stuff they use to make these things is flexible, yet extremely durable. Think about it. We already have spacesuits designed to protect astronauts from micrometeorites, balloons that can protect a spacecraft from impact without being punctured by hitting rocks after a fall from at least 400 feet, and if a stray supply module hits one of these things, it's most likely going to bounce off, rather than puncturing it. The result is going to be much better than if it hits a solid container, which will probably buckle under the stress and cause joints and connections to come apart.

    Think about how much it takes to puncture and completely deflate a steel-belted radial tire, and then realize that tires are like paper balloons compared to the inflatable tools being designed for space.
  • by Hrunting ( 2191 ) on Monday January 31, 2000 @06:43PM (#1316828) Homepage
    NASA's been looking at inflatable technology for quite some time and I'm sure that this is just another application of new materials and ideas (the article must be Slashdotted).

    If you think about it, inflation makes complete sense. Given the cargo limitations of today's launch vehicles, inflatable cargo takes up a lot less space. I saw NASA's 'architect', Constance Adams, speak at my school once and they've been designing an inflatable habitat for the space station for quite some time now. The great thing about an inflatable habitat is that it takes very little air in the vacuum of space for it to be structurally stable enough for construction habitation. Furthermore, inhabitable systems use an endoskeletal design for their interiors, rather than the exoskeletal designs of current tin cans, leading to a more flexible design. In addition, materials used for the skin are much lighter than their metallic counterparts, saving launch costs.

    If you think about it, in space, most things are in tension because of the outward pressure of the required internal atmosphere. Why not use this force to your benefit, right?

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