The underwater spacesuit that's going to revolutionize ocean research

In this case, “small” means “really small”. Drug smugglers may use “mini-subs”, but that’s really more a comparison to military submarines. Most drug subs are actually a bit larger than your typical research submersible. Remember, the cargo has to be large enough to offset the cost of transit with no guarantee of reusing the vehicle.

I’m not buying the hype. Hardsuits have been around for ages in various forms, to say nothing of the standard full sized submersible capable of carrying more equipment and actually, ya know, retrieving specimens. Where exactly do they expect you to put collected flora and fauna in this thing?

Will this maybe be a useful tool for oceanic research? Yeah, sure, why not? Will it “revolutionize” it? Somehow, I don’t think so.

It seems more likely to become yet another toy for rich tourists - “Dive the Abyssal Zone, exclusively at Crown Tours!” or whatever.

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The suit type submersible craft like this is really only necessary if you’re working under water, on a oil rig for instance. Simple sightseeing can be done with subs.

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I was planning on posting something roughly similar. They’ve been working on and refining these things for decades. I remember trying on not to different from this at the Museum of Natural History around 20 years ago.


Oh my god does every single depiction of vacuum exposure in all sci-fi ever piss me off.

  1. You are not going to instantly freeze. No, seriously. Vacuum is the absolute best insulator you can get. Yes, humans radiate heat, but the amount of heat you radiate is pittance compared to the temperature changes you feel through convection (stuff blowing on you) and conduction (stuff touching you). I would confidently state that you are going to have the exact opposite problem and start to overheat if it wasn’t for the fact that you would be evaporating water out of your skin with pretty high efficiency. Regardless, you will not freeze. You also are not going to instantly fry. If you jump out into space in full view of the sun in Earth’s orbit, you will get nasty sunburn pretty quick on the exposed bits, and you will eventually warm up to a toasty ~130C, but you are not going to catch on fire or anything.

  2. You are not going to boil or explode. On something like the ISS, it would hurt to drop instantly into vacuum. The ISS is at 1 atmosphere. Your ears will hurt, and your eyes might also hurt too as the water starts to evaporate off the surface of them. You are not going to explosively spew everywhere. Pressure differences are what cause you to blow up, and the pressure difference between you and space isn’t that big. In a space suit, you might not notice it until it is too late. The difference between a space suit, which tend to run at ~0.2 atmospheres and space is the same as diving 7 feet down in a pool. No, nitrogen in the blood isn’t a problem either. Again, it is pressure differences that cause nitrogen to be a problem, and your blood is going to remain at roughly the same pressure because human skin easily handles a pressure difference of 1 atmosphere.

  3. The atmosphere is not going to all instantly vanish from your spaceship or your suit if there is a tiny hole. Holes are bad, but again, it is all about pressure difference. You can pump air faster than a tiny hole can expel it, or the very least you can keep the atmosphere to something survivable.

  4. You will pass out quick in vacuum, but other than ear pain (assuming you start at 1 atmosphere instead of a space suits 0.2 atmospheres), you probably won’t realize it is happening until it is too late. You don’t gasp and choke from a lack of air, but from too much CO2. You will have no problem expelling CO2 in vacuum, so you will just get sleepy and pass out, likely never realizing that you were sucking on hard vacuum.

If you really want to understand how hilariously off our intuition is, imagine this scenario:

You wake up naked on Pluto, in a lab module. Your spurned lover has taken your clothing and space suit, and you are left only with an oxygen mask, a hefty tank of oxygen pressurized oxygen, a pair of swimming goggles, some thickly insulated boots, and a roll of duct tape. The nearest lab module is a quarter of a mile away. Are you fucked?

The answer is no. Turn down the pressure in the lab to 0.2 atmospheres if it isn’t already set that way. Toss on the goggles, tape up them up nice a tight. Tape your naughty hole(s) shut. Tape your ears shut. Tape the oxygen taken onto your back (it is low G, so no worries on the weight). Put on your insulated boots. Tape the oxygen mask on as best you can onto your face, but don’t tape all the way around. Make it so that you can blow air out when you blow hard. Great, now open the door and walk outside in your birthday suit. You will be perfectly fine for the quarter mile walk (it will be more of a bound if you are on Pluto). You won’t even be cold. Your skin will look like you got a hickey, but you will be fine. You can actually take your time. The only thing you have to worry about is screwing up how much air you are feeding to yourself because you might not notice until you are passing out, and falling. Falling would be bad. While the vacuum of space makes a fantastic insulator to keep you warm on your hike across Pluto, touching any part of Pluto with anything warm (like your skin) is going to result in the warm thing getting cold very very fast. While you can internally generate heat faster that you can radiate it away, Pluto has had a few billion years to radiate away all of its heat, so it is really freaking cold to the touch. Don’t touch it. Don’t lick it.


You’d just have to put it up your bum, which is nothing new in the world of coke smuggling.

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reading about the early days of digging the new york subway system, I got an idea wheresome of these fanciful notions may have come from. There really hsave been horrific instances where people go shot through smal openings, sometimes to survive and surface in the waters above the tunnel. Never mind that the pressure difference is significantly greater below ground than it is above the sky, the popular imagination (and the demands of movie drama) will go with the familiar, even when it’s not realistic.

The Byford Dolphin incident in 1983 covers most of the Hollywood cliches about decompression, such as blood boiling, extreme gas expansion and bodies being forced through small openings. In this case the pressure drop went from from 9atm to 1atm almost instantly. When it comes to decompression accidents, it doesn’t really get much worse than this.

If you haven’t had your lunch yet and weren’t planning to eat any, the wiki article makes for some gruesome reading.

What about the water in your eyeballs? Won’t that evaporate almost instantly?

Oil platforms are a strong Venn diagram of $$$ overlapping with some deep water work needing done. Historically divers on oil platforms have had a very high accident/mortality rate, if this brings it down a little or a lot then great.

But of course that has little to do with ‘ocean research’.

I like spheres.

Mostly I agree, but its going to be hell on your lungs. You need 200 millibar of oxygen in your lungs to get it across the membranes into your blood, and your body needs to hold that against vacuum. Then when you exhale you will have almost zero absolute pressure in your lungs and significant pressure from your internal fluids trying to escape through your lungs.

That said I reckon I could make the trip too.

Incidentally Larry Niven wrote a great short story called Wait it out where a guy on Pluto in a similar situation tries to turn himself into a corposicle. Its a good read.

Do you have a citation for that? I have read right through the ALSJ and several astronaut autobiographies and there is no mention of that.

Well, I’ve personally been in the room where the steel pieces are cut, does that count as a cite? :smile: Nowadays they cut them with lasers! I didn’t actually get to meet the elderly ladies who used to sew the flexible layers, though, which was a great disappointment.

I am no longer sure how many layers there were to the suits. I think maybe seven? The interesting layers, to me, were the articulated steel one (it’s really hard to build an articulated steel buttock housing) and the spaghetti layer made of tubes carrying liquid for thermal regulation.

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Lighter DOES matter. I’ve been involved with manned submersible operations over the years, as well as being an experienced ROV pilot, and when you’re talking about lifting something over the side of a ship on a cable, the lighter it is, the better. Manned operations require a crane system to be capable of lifting something like 4 times the actual weight of the unit, so a lighter vehicle/suit means it can be deployed from a smaller vessel. The majority of the cost associated with many of the work-class ROVs and subs is that of ship-time, so this adds up fast.


Well, the lion’s share of the NewtSuits are owned and operated by military organizations (The US Navy uses LOTS of them) so obviously someone thinks they have advantages over an ROV system, other than daredevils and the super-rich. As an experienced ROV pilot, I can tell you that as wonderful as ROVs are, there are indeed times when it’s better to have a human down there.

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Thanks, I thought it might. So my supposition that cost may be lowered by the unit, broadening it’s potential market/use might hold water.

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