Thursday, August 20, 2009

The more things change

The more they suck, or so Butthead said. Work has been a handful,and not much time for much of anything.

On the other hand, I have been able to sneak away and do some sailing. Glovers are prohibited from squirt boosting but we can still enjoy space in any other way that doesn't involve rearranging our atoms.

So I went solar sailing with some friends. It's a cool sport, and one I do a lot in my downtime.

A solar sail is a piece of metalized mylar, with a fine carbon fiber reinforcement. They're relatively cheap and easy to replace, and can be deployed from any of the space elevators or from a small orbital. They are driven by solar winds.

The sail is connected to a suit, and once you have launched it you control the lines with your handsw and feet, and a small computerized monitor that can either be worn on the wrist or projected onto your retina.

Once in motion you can activate the suit, which blows up until you look like a freakish Violet Beauregard. You can then pull your head in and use the suit like a tiny spaceship. It's a lot like living inside a balloon.

And you can live there for about ten days. They reccomend you eat low volume foods, and the foods sold for sailing are filling but have almost no actual volume. Otherwise it would get crowded in the suit.

You can then deflate it back to a "suit" to ravel the sail back in once you arrive somewhere.

Some of the more hardcore types will get out of the suit during flight. You have to wear some serious special sunscreen, which usually contains a thin film to prevent too much evaporation through your skin. You also need goggles, whcih have misters to keep your eyes moist and lubed, and auto shade in bright light. A nose/mouth mask and earplugs and you can step out into space naked as a jaybird.

Which I have done, often enough.

People get all freaked out about vacuum but the reality is, your body is more than capable of handling 14.7 psi. Sure, some orifices like the nose, mouth, eyes and ears need to be protected, but the freedom of zero g and vacuum is something to be experienced.

You could lose your snorkel and die, or you could lose an earplug and have the air in your lungs shoot out the side of your head, or you could fart severely and get tangled in your shroud lines, but for the most part, you wouldn't be there if you weren't a bit of a daredevel.