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Hackaday Links: July 31, 2022

Don’t look up! As of the time of this writing, there’s a decent chance that a Chinese Long March 5B booster has already completed its uncontrolled return to Earth, hopefully safely. The reentry prediction was continually tweaked over the last week or so, until the consensus closed in on 30 Jul 2022 at 17:08 UTC, give or take an hour either way. That two-hour window makes for a LOT of uncertainty about where the 25-ton piece of space debris will end up. Given the last prediction by The Aerospace Corporation, the likely surface paths cover a lot of open ocean, with only parts of Mexico and South America potentially in the crosshairs, along with parts of Indonesia. It’s expected that most of the material in the massive booster will burn up in the atmosphere, but with the size of the thing, even 20% making it to the ground could be catastrophic, as it nearly was in 2020.

[Update: US Space Command confirms that the booster splashed down in the Indian Ocean region at 16:45 UTC. No word yet on how much debris survived, or if any populated areas were impacted.]

Good news, everyone — thanks to 3D printing, we now know the maximum height of a dive into water that the average human can perform without injury. And it’s surprisingly small — 8 meters for head first, 12 meters if you break the water with your hands first, and 15 meters feet first. Bear in mind this is for the average person; the record for surviving a foot-first dive is almost 60 meters, but that was by a trained diver. Researchers from Cornell came up with these numbers by printing models of human divers in various poses, fitting them with accelerometers, and comparing the readings they got with known figures for deceleration injuries. There was no mention of the maximum survivable belly flop, but based on first-hand anecdotal experience, we’d say it’s not much more than a meter.

Humans have done a lot of spacefaring in the last sixty years or so, but almost all of it has been either in low Earth orbit or as flybys of our neighbors in the Sol system. Sure we’ve landed plenty of probes, but mostly on the Moon, Mars, and a few lucky asteroids. And Venus, which is sometimes easy to forget. We were reminded of that fact by this cool video of the 1982 Soviet landing of Venera 14, one of only a few attempts to land on our so-called sister planet. The video shows the few photographs Venera 14 managed to take before being destroyed by the heat and pressure on Venus, but the real treat is the sound recording the probe managed to make. Venera 14 captured the sounds of its own operations on the Venusian surface, including what sounds like a pneumatic drill being used to sample the regolith. It also captured, as the narrator put it, “the gentle blow of the Venusian wind” — as gentle as ultra-dense carbon dioxide hot enough to melt lead can be, anyway.

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Diving With An Unlimited Air Supply

If you want to explore underwater, you have a few options. You can hold your breath. You can try to recycle your air. You can carry your breathing air with you as in SCUBA. You can stick a tube up like a snorkel, or you can have air sent down to you from the surface. EXOlung falls into this last category, but unlike many other surface solutions, it has a twist: it never runs out of power before you do. Watch the video below and you’ll see how it works.

A buoy puts a snorkel up out of the water, and a tube lets you dive up to 5 meters away. There’s a small tank on your chest, and your body’s motion serves to fill the tank from the outside air supply. As your legs extend and retract, you fill the tank and then put the tank’s air at ambient pressure so you can breathe. As a bonus, by varying how you inhale and exhale, you can control your buoyancy and, therefore, your depth.

The system does require you to strap your legs up to the apparatus. However, other similar systems have compressors or batteries which can fail or run down, meaning there can be a limit on how long you can stay under. EXOlung claims there is no limit to how long you can stay under.

The cost looks to be around 300 Euro, although for a bit more you can get one that uses different materials to withstand higher pressures. That one has a 7-meter hose.

Another approach is to just carry a little air and remove the CO2 from it and rebreathe it. We’ve also seen a risky surface air pump that uses wind power.

Continue reading “Diving With An Unlimited Air Supply”

Lessons Learned Building A DIY Rebreather

While the homebrew rebreather the [AyLo] describes on his blog looks exceptionally well engineered and is documented to a level we don’t often see, he still makes it very clear that he’s not suggesting you actually build one yourself. He’s very upfront about the fact that he has no formal training, and notes that he’s already identified several critical mistakes. That being said, he’s taken his rebreather out for a few dives and has (quite literally) lived to tell the tale, so he figured others might be interested in reading about his experiments.

For the landlubbers in the audience, a rebreather removes the CO2 from exhaled air and recirculates the remaining O2 for another pass through the lungs. Compared to open circuit systems, a rebreather can substantially increase the amount of time a diver can remain submerged for a given volume of gas. Rebreathers aren’t just for diving either, the same basic concept was used in the Apollo PLSS to increase the amount of time the astronauts could spend on the surface of the Moon.

The science behind it seemed simple enough, so [AyLo] did his research and starting designing a bare-minimum rebreather system in CAD. Rather than completely hack something together with zip ties, he wanted to take the time to make sure that he could at least mate his hardware with legitimate commercial scuba components wherever possible to minimize his points of failure. It meant more time designing and machining his parts, but the higher safety factor seems well worth the effort.

[AyLo] has limited the durations of his dives to ten minutes or less out of caution, but so far reports no problems with the setup. As with our coverage of the 3D printed pressure regulator or the Arduino nitrox analyser, we acknowledge there’s a higher than usual danger factor in these projects. But with a scientific approach and more conventional gear reserved for backups, these projects prove that hardware hacking is possible in even the most inhospitable conditions.

DIY Pressure Regulator For Exciting SCUBA

To get a SCUBA certification, a prospective diver will need to find a dive shop and take a class. Afterwards, some expensive rental equipment is in order. That is, unless you’re [biketool] who has found a way to build some of his own equipment. If you’re looking for a little bit of excitement on your next dive, this second stage regulator build might be just the thing for you.

It’s worth noting that [biketool] makes it explicitly clear that this shouldn’t be used on any living being just yet. The current test, though, was at 120 PSI using some soda bottles and some scrap bike parts. The OpenSCAD-designed regulator seems to work decently well for something that’s been homemade using some 3D-printed parts and other things available to most tinkerers/makers/hackers. [biketool] also goes over some issues with the regulator leaking and discusses porosity issues inherent in FDM printing but overall this project looks promising. Whether or not you want a pressurized 3D printed vessel that close to your face is rife for debate.

We don’t see a lot of SCUBA-related hacks around here. After all, it’s one thing to power an air horn with SCUBA tanks, but it’s a completely different thing to build something that keeps you from drowning.

Thanks to [dave] for the tip!