Keeping Hydrated at High Altitudes

Former astronaut co-invents system for harsh environments

Extreme condition clothing: Scott Parazynski’s Mt. Everest gear is on display at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Parazynski is the only person to fly into space and climb Mt. Everest. The High Altitude Hydration System he co-invented and tested during the climb is available for licensing.

The gear a climber wears to summit Mt. Everest looks an awful lot like a spacesuit. But that’s not the only connection between mountain climbers and astronauts.

Working with engineers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, former astronaut Scott Parazynski co-invented a technology that will help climbers (and others working in cold conditions) battle a life-threatening health risk – dehydration. This new freeze-resistant hydration system is now available for licensing.

The technology substantially improves on existing hydration systems that cannot prevent water from freezing in the tubing, container and mouthpiece in the harshest conditions on earth. NASA’s technology is designed to work at -40oC and in 15 mph winds over a 12-hour summit day, and likely well beyond. Parazynski helped field test the device on Mt. Everest in May 2009. (You can read his blog here)

Dehydration is a life-threatening complication for high-altitude climbers. The lightweight device will provide 2-3 liters of liquid beverage (water, tea or nutritional supplement) over the course of a full summit day. The straw is insulated with aerogel or other highly efficient insulators, a feature that allows the heating system to work without extra thickness or weight. The technology uses passive transfer of body heat in one option, an intermediate variant system in another and a battery-powered microcontroller in a third.

Although designed for climbers, it has applications for all cold weather sports enthusiasts (skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers, hunters), rescue crews and military personnel.

I will be demonstrating this hydration system at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 21 and Friday, Jan. 22.

For more information, contact: Fuentek, LLC at (919) 249-0327 or nasa.jsc@fuentek.com.

–By Karen Hiser

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Posted by Karen Hiser

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