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Section 4.3.8.
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Spacesuit Woes

Stephen Conners

1. Can't blow your nose

In aircraft, a similar problem is needing to Valsalva (hold your nose and blow) to equalize pressure changes in the inner ear. This is also a problem in space suits that do not operate at habitat pressure, do not use the same gas mixture as the habitat, or do not have perfect pressure control.

Oxygen masks generally have holes in the hard shell, or soft areas in one piece masks, to allow a thumb and finger to pinch the nose shut for Valsalva. I am not sure, but I think that U-2/SR-71 suits (same as the orange suits used during shuttle launch) have some sort of nose scratcher, at least a post off to one side you can push your nose up against. Also, deep diving "Jim suits" (rigid diving suits, very similar to a space suit) typically have some means of doing this, if only pulling your arm inside to reach your face. Another solution is drugs. Having chronic sinusitis, I take pills or spray that work for many hours at a time. The problem can be mitigated by moisturizing the air in the helmet. Drugs must be use-tested by individuals to see if they have bad reactions (many flying accidents are attributed to drowsiness or dizziness from decongestants).

2. Can't comb your hair

This is one reason "Snoopy hats" or helmet liners are worn. Helmets also develop "hot spots" from pressure points, and must be custom molded to fit or loose enough to twist inside of. A lot of this goes away with hours and months of wear, getting used to it.

3. Can't eat regular food

Anyone who has eaten many Pillsbury Space Food Sticks knows that they are not a treat. But it's not a big problem unless you're planning to stay in the suit for six or more hours. The Russians, French, and Germans have sent some pretty good stuff into space. Gatorade, broth/soup, other liquid foods are a possibility.

Lots of water is needed to keep hydrated anyway, especially if the "air" is not moisturized (the headaches on long airline flights are due to 1) dehydration (air in the stratosphere has virtually no moisture) 2) high CO2 levels, caused by inadequate air replacement rates. Both must be controlled for useful work to be done. One thing to remember is that what goes in eventually comes out. Also see below.

4. Can't scratch an itch

This does drive some people crazy. But being busy is an anodyne, as is experience. In winter flight gear and wearing heavy boots, a helmet and mask, it is almost impossible to scratch anything. Nomex long johns help (they are soft and non-allergenic) and after enough experience, most people can ignore the itches.

What drives you crazy is when you are not busy and have nothing else to think about or concentrate on. I have found that reading a book under these conditions helps. Perhaps entertainment displays for the HUDs? As mentioned above, having a set of posts to rub your face against would help. Redesigning the shoulder joint and enlarging the neck ring, as in a Jim suit, to allow retraction of an arm or two inside the body of the suit and helmet would probably be the best solution.

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