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space exploration

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The Sokol space suit: the ultimate onesie!

The Russian Sokol suit has been fun to draw and adapt for Soyuz Blue!

The original Soyuz spacecraft was designed to maintain a “shirt sleeve” environment where the cosmonauts launched to space and returned without needing space suits. After the disaster of Soyuz 11, when a faulty valve accidently vented the spacecrafts atmosphere into the vacuum of space and killed the unprotected crew, the Russians developed a new kind of “soft rescue suit.” Sokal is fairly comfortable and compact, yet still provides protection to crews during critical phases of their mission — launch, docking and landing.

The suit is one-piece and entered through a “V” shaped opening in the chest. Once the cosmonaut steps into the opening and draws the suit around him or herself, the excess material is gather together and sealed with a rubber band, then the suit is zipped shut. Boots are integrated with the suit, but gloves are removable and attach by aluminum locking rings. The visor can open on hinges mounted near the ears. When the visor is closed it seals with an aluminum flange. When the visor is open the hood, or ‘soft helmet,’ folds away. The classic suit is designed to be worn up to two hours when inflated and 30 hours when deflated.

When I designed the Soyuz Blue moon suits I included an additional layer of distinctive blue radiation shielding. A flight to the Moon takes the cosmonauts beyond the protective layer of Earth’s’ radiation belts, so they may need to wear their suit more often, and for longer periods. The boots are removable so that a cosmonaut can wear the suit up to a week, if needed, with relative comfort. I made my Moon design a little more aggressive looking, inspired by Zuni Indian costumes I saw on display at the Chicago Field Museum.

If you want a first hand look, space tourist Denis Tito’s sokol suit on display at the National Air and Space Museum.

More Russian space trivia included in the hard science fiction thriller Soyuz Blue, on sale now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. http://bit.ly/soyuzblue

A tale of suspense: Hitchcock “icy blonde” in space.

I have always been a fan of film director Alfred Hitchcock. When creating the character of Elizabeth Floyd I thought it might be fun to reimagine the Hitchcock “icy blonde” for a high-tech new century.

Hitchcock was famous for his leading ladies. They were inevitably complex, willful, sexy, and  frequently blonde. While they seem somewhat dated today, they were a radical departure from the tepid female characters of their time. Here is just a sampling of Hitchcock’s blonde brew of heroines:

The plucky socialite Lisa Freeman (Grace Kelly) in Rear Window is beautifully coiffed, wears Channel, attends all the right parties, and knows all the right people. She also breaks into a suspected murderer’s apartment and steals evidence that proves the man’s wife is not away visiting her Mother, but murdered.

The daring Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) in Psycho steals a fortune from her boss to help her indebted boyfriend and ends up murdered in the shower of the Bates motel. Equally bold and blonde, her sister Lila Crane (Vera Miles) comes in for the balance of the film and sees the story through to the shocking climax.

The complex Marnie Edgar (Tippi Hedren) is a conniving thief in Marnie, who is repressing an even more criminal past. She dazzles and torments her husband (Sean Connery) into behaving badly. When the central mystery is finally revealed they emerge as an equal, if damaged, couple.

The mysterious and destructive Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak) is both haunted and haunting in Vertigo. Both a victim and victimizer, she becomes the acrophobic hero’s (Jimmy Stewart) unhealthy compulsion. They torment each other until the very last obsessive frame of the film.

Soyuz Blue puts this smart, strong willed, and flawed Hitchcock persona into the unforgiving crucible of space exploration: a hostile environment where the slightest misstep can lead to disaster. Add to the mix: corporate politics, scientific fraud, international terrorism, a love triangle, and you have a supercharged stage on which to tell a tale of suspense.

What will icey blonde Elizabeth Floyd’s fate be?

Did I capture the spirit of Hitchcock’s frosty heroines? Check out the novel on Amazon: http://bit.ly/soyuzblue