Space Architecture

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


One of the things that the folks from NASA thought that the class should design for is radiation. Reading off the slides from the SICSA website, there are two sources of radiation that one needs to design for:

Galactic Cosmic Radiation (GCR), and

Large Solar Flares.

GCR is a constant, isotropic source of radiation. Isotropic means that it comes in from all directions. Solar Flares, on the other hand, come from one source: the sun (or any given star, but I'm more concerned about the local Sun versus all the other ones)

It is difficult to protect the crew from GCR, because apparently a given level of protection plateaus after a while. This implies that complete protection requires escalating thicknesses of shielding, which adds mass. The impression that I'm getting from Larry is that GCR-protection may be more trouble than it's worth. That said, one article from says that GCR poses the greatest risk, due to Fe+26.

This could get very dry.

What makes solar flares dangerous is their intensity and unpredictability. Here I introduce the unit called Röntgen Equivalent Man, "rem". The rem is used to measure radiation dosage. The maximum dosage, as far as I can best determine (sources: 1, 2, and 3) is 25 rem per 30-day period, and 50 rem per year. Older males are apparently able to take more rems than everyone else (male and female).

I had been under the impression last semester that the crew would consist of six males who had already had their families. The concern was that if younger people travelled to Mars, the amount of radiation that they would be exposed to could lead to sterility. However, crew selection is still far away. That doesn't mean that I can't "design" a mission to include certain people, but that I shouldn't expect anything that is print now to be true 20 or 30 or however many years from now.

What I'm trying to find out is:

How many rem's do solar flare events produce?

What does it take to shield those rem's?

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Putting Together the Space Portfolio, Part Two

I hope everyone is having a great Christmas! Also, best wishes to those celebrating the first day of Chanukkah!

I got the pictures (One and Two) to load up, finally. I've also added a new, third image. However, the portfolio is still not complete. I've been re-working the images, to maintain a consist size through-out the portfolio, and to keep the site from slashdotting so easily. You'll hear it first when the results are complete.

In the meantime, if I don't finish this tomorrow, you'll see what I've researched so far in Radiation. I promise that it's more interesting than you might think.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Putting Together the Space Portfolio

My previous post talked about adding my portfolio to my website. Today, on Christmas Eve, I tried to add my Space Architecture stuff. This is not going as well as I had anticipated. Creating the hard copies is fine. Creating digital ones, compressed enough to be viewable on my website, is not as fine. The images upload well enough, but when it comes to viewing them, I can't.

Maybe one of you fine folk can view them, and tell me how they look. Until then, I'm going to keep on working on this. I do want both a hard copy version of my space portfolio, as well as on-line version.

Here are two images that I have loaded up:

First Image

Second Image

Have a Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Style Change, and More Links

The title says it all. I've changed from the black-text on white background to the blues you see now. I've also added more links. See to your right. That's it! Short post, see you tomorrow.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Well, I've added my Portfolio to my website. It was a time-consuming process, of converting Adobe Illustrator (.ai) files into JPGs. Adobe Photoshop kept crashing as it tried rasterize files about 4mb big. Nevertheless, 'tis done, at least as a draft. I would appreciate comments, via e-mail or on this blog. My e-mail address is on the website, at the bottom. It's been spam-resisted, so you'll have to do some minor editing.

Note, that the site is really easy to Slashdot, so if you get a message about bandwidth being exceeded, don't worry.

So, what's space-architect-y about my portfolio? Very little. It is largely a body of work showing what I did back when I was in 3rd- and 4th-year architecture. My 5th-year stuff, which is where the space-architecture comes in, has yet to be added. Quite frankly, the website is so easy to over-load, than I'm a little hesitat to add the files. Also, I don't have a index for the portfolio itself. You have to click on each image to get to the next one. This is not a problem for a small portfolio, like the one I have. However, adding the stuff I did for space architcture, would almost double its length.

That would call for having a bifurcation page, with one link sending you to my space architecture stuff, another link showing my terrestial architecture. [thinking out loud, as Larry likes to do and say] Why even have terrestial, non-hi-tech architecture? Well, I don't have to do space architecture to keep my interests. Any architectural solution/program requiring a hi-tech or experimental solution would be great. I want to push the boundaries of what architecture is...that sounds about...I want to apply optimal solutions that respond both to innate human psycho/social needs. Or, to put it another way, both the micro and the macro scales, or the timeless and the I sound even more ambiguous. I will just quote what Olga Bannova, a Senior Research Assistant at SICSA, asked me a few months ago: "Do you want to spend the rest of your life doing ordinary architecture, or doing something different?"

So...getting back to what I should focus on for my website. I would like to show my sketches, AutoCAD work, as well as my 3D stuff. Uploading my animations is out of the question, unless I have a large server and a lot of bandwidth. When push comes to shove, and the shrinking file sizes begin to compromise quality, I will favor the space/hi-tech/experimental architecture.

More challenges! More fascinating problems to solve! Such is life as I like it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Today I visited John Frassanito & Associates, a strategic visualizations company. I met with Mr Bob Sauls, one of the designers down there in the NASA area. He showed me some of the software that they use to create some really amazing video. He showed how they create storyboards, which look like preliminary design sketches to those in the field of conventional architecture. Only, clearly, they are for video versus a building. The kinds of software that they use may not be familiar to those in architecture.

These include:



Presenter 3D

Final Cut Pro

The last two are Macintosh-only, to the best of my knowlegde. Although, I have not researched Final Cut Pro enough to see if there is a Windows version. Suffice to say that because Apple makes Final Cut Pro, there probably isn't a Windows version.

All of these are expensive, and for Presenter 3D, hard to get.

According to Bob, Lightwave is for use on workstations, versus PCs, which are more likely to use 3D Studio Max. All of the software also is hard-ware intensive.

What to do, what to do [thinking out loud]. The School of Architecture has AutoCAD and 3DS Max on their computers, and Rhino on the computers in the computer lab, excluding the SICSA lab. I'm not sure that Lightwave, Modo, Presenter, and Final Cut are what space architects use in general. But, considering that space architects are hard to find, even in Houston, there are few data samples upon which I can make a generalization. I would like to think that knowing AutoCAD and any given 3D rendering program would get one an interesting position in a firm doing equally interesting work.

However, things aren't as simple as that.

But, back to my meeting with Bob. He showed the storyboards, the high-resolution images that are like a stage 2 storyboard (replacing sketches with computer-generated images), and how Final Cut Pro organizes clips, fade-ins/outs, and sound segments to create a single video. It was like seeing the structure of a movie exposed, like stripping the sheetrock from a wall, or cutting a house in half. I could see the structure within the movie.

All of this has made me more interested in animation and video-production than before. I should really take what I currently have, 3DS Max, and see how far I can get with it, before moving onto more expensive programs.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


Five months since last posting. Here's the breakdown:

August: Started school.

First met the graduate students and fellow undergraduate students that I would work with for the next four months. Larry Bell broke down various projects that we would work on: Crew Transfer Module (CTM) for a Mission to Mars, Mars Habitat, Lunar Habitat, and Phobos Explorer. I chose, by suggestion of one of the grad students, to work on the CTM to Mars. The CTM has the following basic properties:

- Dimensions: 22 feet in diameter, and 40 feet in length

- Mass: Not to exceed 100 metric tonnes [I know, mixing English and Metric is not a good idea, but for the project, we had both kinds in use for presentation purposes]

- Crew: 6 Total

- Mission Length: About 900 days, roughly a year or so to get to Mars, a year spent at Mars, and a year to come back

Larry, and Olga Bannova, introduced us to the SICSA Lecture Series. These pdf-slide shows contain very useful information.

Lesson: Don't repeat research or designs that have already been done.

September: The month-long research period begins.

Most of this is grad students telling the undergrads what can be done, what has been done, what cannot be done, or has not been done. We spent long periods of time at the marker board. One grad student had done a lot of research into various missions types, citing much of the data in Human Spaceflight by Wiley J. Larson and Linda K. Pranke. The book is an excellent reference.

A whole month passed by, with little to show for it, although our heads felt full of information.

Lesson: Research has to end sometime, and design has to begin!

October: Design begins.

My most excellent teammates are Jill Klein and Jon Feaster. Jill works with NASA, and Jon has highly developed skills at AutoCAD and 3D Studio Max. If you have never used 3DS Max before, it's a powerful rendering program that creates simply beautiful results, and does animation, too. Even better, Max can link files created in AutoCAD. This allows the user to draw the more technical, precise drawings in CAD, and then render the same design in Max.

By now, we have adopted a "banana split"-type of design for the CTM. The reasoning for this is to allow relatively scenic views from within the CTM. The alternative is the "bolonga slice" type, which will be flexible, does not permit anyone to look at something that is further away than 20 or so feet. The "banana split" allowed views of up to 40 or so feet.

Remember, the people on board will not be able to leave the module for anything but an EVA (space walk), or to access a similar- or smaller-sized module, for about a year's time. Four of the crew members will be on Mars for about a year, while the other two will visit Phobos.

Lesson: Keep working, and learn more about using CAD and Max effectively. I already had a lot of experience with CAD. However, this project requires the use of 3D drafting and rendering. A "floor plan" is deceptive, since the CTM is tubular in shape. Most buildings have a similar ceiling height at the place where the floor meets the wall, as in the center of the room. But, in the CTM, the "ceiling" height is zero where the "floor" meets the "wall". Thinking two-dimensionally is not recommended.

November: Fleshing out the design.

During this period, Jill, Jon, and I, worked on our separate components, incorporating them into the CTM as needed. I worked on a bedroom concept. Imagine going on a trip for three years, with five other people. Unless someone dies, you won't be able to get away from any of them. You will always be within 40 or so feet of them, barring that one-year excursion to Mars or Phobos. Even then, you'll be in the Mars Habitat or Phobos Explorer. You are still in very close contact.

Rather than have coffin-sized sleep modules, I opted for expandable bedrooms. The "walls" of these sleeping spaces are flexible, more fabric-like storage containers/pockets/pouches than hard bins. If they are transparent or see-through, then the crew member can personalize their own space with their own posessions. Also, the soft surfaces and edge treatments permit greater dampening of sound. The noise on current spacecraft is supposedly an on-going concern. I don't have a link or really good source on this (Comments welcome!). That said, I think muffling the chatter or noise produced by other humans would be quite nice.

The space taken up by the larger bedrooms is removed from the lab area and storage containers. Initial designs had almost all the storage in one place, or stuffed into all nooks and crannies. My design uses storage to create a personal space.

Lesson: Keep working!

December: The Big Finish.

On the technical side, my skills in three-dimensional drafing on AutoCAD, and rendering/animation on 3DS Max, are much better than they were back in September. My team really came together, as did the other teams. The final presentation was on 14 December, and lasted from 3:30 pm through 7:00 pm. Our team went first, to ensure that the guests were awake. We got good commentary and suggestions. Some of what they said is influencing my current activities.

Lesson: Keep busy learning 3DS Max. Also, research the topic that the guests brought up as being critical to the health and safety of crewmembers: Radiation Shielding.