Re: xenonauts

From: Adrian Tymes (
Date: Thu Jul 05 2001 - 22:51:29 MDT

Spike Jones wrote:
> The noble gas xenon is chemically similar to helium,
> except for being nearly 33 times denser. If a person
> were to be placed in a pressure chamber with oxygen held at
> 0.2 atmospheres, then xenon added until the total pressure came
> up to about 190 atmospheres, the density of the gas mixture
> in the chamber would be about equal to that of water. The
> person would then float. It would simulate weightlessness
> better than being in water, since the xenonaut could breathe the
> medium in which she was floating.

Err...are you sure the unshielded human body can take 190 atmospheres?
Sure, the lungs could easily be at equal pressure as outside, and with
careful preparation the stomach could too. But what about the heart,
or even the bones (especially the more delicate ones)?

> The partial pressure of oxygen would need to be increased
> somewhat to counteract the tendency of the oxygen to
> float to the top, however there is no reason to doubt that
> humans could swim in xenon.

Or you could use some kind of ventilation system to constantly recycle
the oxygen and avoid "dead pockets" of air, much as they do on real
spaceships (where the unbreathable air is nitrogen and/or carbon
dioxide). Or just put the worker in a hardshell space suit (which,
granted, one would need to build first) and use it as a neutral
bouyancy tank without the resistance of water...or would xenon have
more reisistance?

> The one killer app for weightlessness that eeeeveryone wants
> to try might not work out either, since one likely could not
> breathe fast enough.

Hmm. Perhaps two hardshell space suits that, when in contact, merge
and melt away, reforming themselves if pulled apart? (A single suit,
hard or soft, would probably either be large enough that gravity within
the suit would be a factor, or small enough to crimp maneuverability
and make the experience less than satisfactory for, I'd predict, most.)

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