Drysuits: outerwear for inner-space astronauts
by Judith Lea Garfield
Sep 30, 2013 | 1654 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Drysuits collectively sport an exhaust valve located on the upper arm to release air, an inlet valve on the chest (a separate hose attachment connects the valve to the scuba tank) to input air, latex neck and wrist seals, and a cross-body zipper for entry and exit. Drysuits include the feet parts, which divers often protect by wearing soft-soled lightweight boots or sometimes high-top sneakers.  ©2013 Judith Lea Garfield
Drysuits collectively sport an exhaust valve located on the upper arm to release air, an inlet valve on the chest (a separate hose attachment connects the valve to the scuba tank) to input air, latex neck and wrist seals, and a cross-body zipper for entry and exit. Drysuits include the feet parts, which divers often protect by wearing soft-soled lightweight boots or sometimes high-top sneakers. ©2013 Judith Lea Garfield
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Trekking through outer space may not be an option for most, but inner-space travel is doable for those with a diver certification card and access to a body of water. For either realm, dressing for success is not so different in that NASA’s space suits have informed scuba divers’ drysuits.

Although modern versions of the drysuit have been around since the late 1980s, they remain a novel sighting for many beachgoers.

Drysuit fabric keeps water out so that I stay dry except for my head and hands, which I encase in good old neoprene (wetsuit material). By keeping most of my body dry, I can conserve heat without wasting energy warming the layer of water between my skin and the neoprene (the blubber-layer concept behind a wetsuit). Because a drysuit shell provides no warmth, I don layers of polar fleece underneath.

A drysuit’s valves allow for air to enter and exit the suit while keeping water out. To inflate my suit for buoyancy and comfort, I press on the inlet valve located on the drysuit’s upper chest area. A hose provides the conduit from the valve to the very same air tank from which I also breathe. To release, I press the exhaust valve on the upper arm. Below the surface, I still need to regulate air in and out. For instance, as I sink, I get heavier and heavier due to increasing outside pressure that goes hand in hand with increasing depth. This results in my being squeezed like those food storage devices that suck out the air in a bag (drysuit) of leftovers (diver) and controlling my descent (a braking system).

To learn more about drysuit mechanics (seals and zipper), actual diving in a drysuit, and a drysuit’s connection to NASA’s space suits, read my full article at www.TideLines.org.

— Judith Lea Garfield, naturalist and underwater photographer, has authored two natural history field guides about the underwater park off La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores. www.TideLines.org;

Judith@TideLines.org
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