Atomic Rockets

Crew Quarters

Depending upon the mass limits and the whim of the spacecraft designer, the crew may not have rooms, just sleeping bunks stuck wherever there is some spare room, or to maintain ship balance. And their may not be enough bunks for the entire crew to sleep at once, forcing a "hot bunk" rotation system (i.e., pairs of crew members on different shifts will share a common bunk).

If the designer is feeling more merciful, they may upgrade the luxury to something resembling those "capsule motels" popular in Japan. The good news is that you have the privacy of a room. The bad news is that the "room" is only slightly larger than a coffin. If you are really lucky the coffin will include an emergency air supply.

Actually, "cabin" is somewhat of a misnomer for this crew quarter. Coffin or closet might be more appropriate, since this is approximately the size of the room. The cabin is intended to serve as a sleeping berth more than anything else, and though it is equipped with a complete computer terminal and minimal hygiene facilities, it is expected that the crew will spend most of their off-duty time in the small commons.

The cabin is intended for use both under acceleration and under micro-gravity. One side is a padded surface with built-in restraints, while the other walls have only a few cushions and pads to protect the occupant as he moves about.

Though the standard crew cabin does not have an independent life support system, it is reasonably airtight and can function as a short time emergency survival shelter (the exact length of time depending on the number of people jammed inside and the quality of the atmosphere.)

The Jovian Confederation ship books have spacecraft designs that are remarkably scientifically accurate and will repay careful study. The accuracy is due to precise oversight by Marc Vezina.

Most luxurious of all is a room actually big enough to turn around in. This is still going to be tiny. Bunks and tables will fold up against the wall, and one won't be able to fold down everything simultaneously. Do some research on accommodation found in wet Naval vessels. For enlisted men, the US Navy manages to cram twelve crewmen into 100 m3, or 8.3 m3 per man. On a sleeper railroad train, it is a more expansive 10 m3 per person, once you add in the diner, baggage and lounge cars (150 m3 per car, 4 passenger cars, 1 diner, 1 baggage, 1 lounge equals 1050 m3 for about 100 people).

Keeping a sense of rank having its privileges, it is very likely that the accommodations for the officers will be one step above that for the enlisted men. But you knew that already.

Again, keep in mind that his is just the personal living space for the crew, not the entire habitable volume of the spacecraft. In this NASA report (warning, 2 MB PDF file) it implies that for the entire habitable volume the bare minimum is about 17 m3 per crewperson.

Presently Thorby became sleepy. But, although he had mastered the gesture by which doors were opened, he still could not find any combination of swipes, scratches, punches, or other actions which would open the bed; he spent that night on the floorplates...

...She moved restlessly. "Thorby, would you mind if I sat in a chair? I don't bend as well as I used to."

Thorby blushed. "Ma'am . . . I have none. I am dis --"

"There's one right behind you. And another behind me." She stood up and touched the wall. A panel slid aside; an upholstered armchair unfolded from the space disclosed.

Seeing his face she said, "Didn't they show you?" and did the same on the other wall; another chair sprang out.

Thorby sat down cautiously, then let his weight relax into cushions as the chair felt him out and adjusted itself to him. A big grin spread over his face. "Gosh!"

"Do you know how to open your work table?"

"Table?"

"Good heavens, didn't they show you anything?"

"Well . . . there was a bed in here once. But I've lost it."

Doctor Mader muttered something, then said, "I might have known it. Thorby, I admire these Traders. I even like them. But they can be the most stiff-necked, self-centered, contrary, self-righteous, uncooperative -- but I should not criticize our hosts. Here." She reached out both hands, touched two spots on the wall and the disappearing bed swung down. With the chairs open, there remained hardly room for one person to stand. "I'd better close it. You saw what I did?"

"Let me try."

She showed Thorby other built-in facilities of what had seemed to be a bare cell: two chairs, a bed, clothes cupboards. Thorby learned that he owned, or at least had, two more work suits, two pairs of soft ship's shoes, and minor items, some of which were strange, bookshelf and spool racks (empty, except for the Laws of Sisu), a drinking fountain, a bed reading light, an intercom, a clock, a mirror, a room thermostat, and gadgets which were useless to him as his background included no need. "What's that?" he asked at last.

"That? Probably the microphone to the Chief Officer's cabin."

From CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY by Robert Heinlein (1957)

(ed note: one hex module is a hexagonal prism, about 3.7 meters wall to wall (12 feet), 15.2 meters long (50 feet), and has a volume of 241 cubic meters (8,500 cubic feet)

The living quarters were on the outboard end of the med module. In accordance with Tom's requests— made on the basis of his earlier experience in LEO Base—each member of the team had a private sleeping sector. None of these "cabins" was spacious, each being a one-sixth sector of the hexagonal cross-section of the module, minus the hexagonal tunnel down its middle, and eight feet (2.4 m) in length.

"Good heavens! We're supposed to live here?" Angela asked, aghast at the cramped aspect of her cabin and its 24-inch (0.6 m) sliding pressure door.

"Well, I had about as much room in a destroyer," Stan remarked. "And some people had even less room on the smaller nonnuclear submarines."

"Actually," Fred Fitzsimmons remarked, "we've got it plush, gang. We've got our own cabin. Most of the construction crews have to work on the hot-bunk system and can use their cabin only during their sleeping shift."

"But it's so small!" Angela pointed out.

"What do you mean, 'small'? It'll get much bigger as you learn how to live in zero-g, Angela," Fred commented. "You've got more than a hundred-fifty cubic feet (4.3 m3) of space. A coffin's only about thirty cubes (0.9 m3), and that's all it takes to hold a human being."

"Oh, thanks for the comparison!" Dave remarked.

"We're all spoiled," Tom pointed out to his crew. "This is sheer luxury compared to the way most people on Earth live. Take Southeast Asia, for example—"

"You take it, Doc. I've been there," Stan pointed out.

Each cabin had its own lighting system, its own emergency life-support system in addition to the air ducts leading to the main GEO Base life-support system, a sleeping sack, and lockers to hold clothing and personal effects. Each cabin door could be closed and sealed from within and from without, but could be opened in an emergency from the main module control center panels.


The sixth sector of the module was a lavatory. The living quarters themselves occupied only eight feet (2.4 m) of the length of a fifty-foot (15.2 m) hex module. Eight more feet (2.4 m) of length were occupied by a stand-by lavatory in addition to two segments devoted to dedicated module life-support and power-distribution equipment. The remaining nine feet (2.7 m) of the outboard half of the module was an open common room. The common room had a feature not present in any of the living cubicles: a 12-inch (0.3 m) triple-glazed port.

From Space Doctor by Lee Correy (G. Harry Stine) 1981

Life Support Room

What's in the Life Support room? Controls for the atmosphere, temperature, drinking and washing water, recycling, environmental heat radiators, hydroponics (if any) and algae tanks (if any). There will also be controls to trigger countermeasures if the air pressure suddenly drops. And maybe a canary in a cage.

Life support will also be tasked with controlling obnoxious odors in the ship's atmosphere. They will have filters, perfumes, and negative ion emitters. The life support techs will also use equipment to track down the source of particularly bad smells, say Ordinary Spaceman Lister's unwashed sock bucket.

There's a fortune awaiting the man who invents a really good deodorizer for a spaceship. That's the one thing you can't fail to notice.

Oh, they try, I grant them that. The air goes through precipitators each time it is cycled; it is washed, it is perfumed, a precise fraction of ozone is added, and the new oxygen that is put in after the carbon dioxide is distilled out is as pure as a baby's mind; it has to be, for it is newly released as a by-product of the photosynthesis of living plants. That air is so pure that it really ought to be voted a medal by the Society for the Suppression of Evil Thoughts.

Besides that, a simply amazing amount of the crew's time is put into cleaning, polishing, washing, sterilizing - oh, they try!

But nevertheless, even a new, extra-fare luxury liner like the Tricorn simply reeks of human sweat and ancient sin, with undefinable overtones of organic decay and unfortunate accidents and matters best forgotten. Once I was with Daddy when a Martian tomb was being unsealed - and I found out why xenoarchaeologists always have gas masks handy. But a spaceship smells even worse than that tomb.

It does no good to complain to the purser. He'll listen with professional sympathy and send a crewman around to spray your stateroom with something which (I suspect) merely deadens your nose for a while. But his sympathy is not real, because the poor man simply cannot smell anything wrong himself. He has lived in ships for years; it is literally impossible for him to smell the unmistakable reek of a ship that has been lived in - and, besides, he knows that the air is pure; the ship's instruments show it. None of the professional spacers can smell it.

But the purser and all of them are quite used to having passengers complain about the "unbearable stench" - so they pretend sympathy and go through the motions of correcting the matter.

Not that I complained. I was looking forward to having this ship eating out of my hand, and you don't accomplish that sort of coup by becoming known first thing as a complainer. But other first-timers did, and I certainly understood why - in fact I began to have a glimmer of a doubt about my ambitions to become skipper of an explorer ship.

But - Well, in about two days it seemed to me that they had managed to clean up the ship quite a bit, and shortly thereafter I stopped thinking about it. I began to understand why the ship's crew can't smell the things the passengers complain about. Their nervous systems simply cancel out the old familiar stinks - like a cybernetic skywatch canceling out and ignoring any object whose predicted orbit has previously been programmed into the machine.

But the odor is still there. I suspect that it sinks right into polished metal and can never be removed, short of scrapping the ship and melting it down. Thank goodness the human nervous system is endlessly adaptable.

From Podkayne of Mars by Robert Heinlein

Cargo Hold

What's in the cargo hold? A huge cargo bay door. Perhaps an extendable cargo crane or ramp to facilitate loading. Decks painted with guide-lines to regularize the placement of cargo canisters. Lighting fixtures inset and armored to protect them from clumsy cargo handling. Lots of tie-down attachment points to immobilize the cargo (if the cargo shifts during thrust the rocket will tumble). Hoists in the ceiling. There will be an office for the cargo master, said office might be the "quarterdeck" when the ship is planeted. If so, the office might have repeaters for the critical system monitors, for use by the watch officer.

Also keep in mind that some propulsion systems are radioactive. You might have to arrange things so that the unloaded cargo does not arrive too close to the engines. Possible solutions include a ramp, a small cable tramway like a ski lift, or an arm like on the SF spacecraft SPIP.

Remember that the ship has to be balanced around the axis of thrust or again the ship will tumble when thrust is applied. Cargo will have to be stowed in a balanced manner, and logged in a mass distribution schedule (sometimes called a "Center-of-mass and moment-of-inertia" chart). The same care has to be taken when removing part of the cargo as well.

There may also be a "ship's locker". This may be an actual locker or as large as a small cargo hold. It contains all the small stores and supplies the ship needs for day-to-day operations. Medical supplies, survival gear, small-arms locker, and the "slop chest". The slop chest contains convenience items and consumables for the crew. The ship's purser sells slop chest items to the crew at cost or charged to the crewmember's unpaid salary. Such items include spare uniforms, junk food, toiletries, games, educational textbooks, and novels.

As previously mentioned, present-day cargo ships are rated in "Net register tonnage", where each "ton" actually indicates 100 cubic feet of volume (2.83 cubic meters). The average cargo they carry has a density of 350 kg/m3. If the cargo has a wildly different density, some math will be needed, but for most cargo the net tonnage gives a good idea of the ship's cargo capacity. In practice, while filling the cargo hold it will either "mass-out" or "bulk-out", depending on which it runs out of first: lifting capacity or cargo space. In MANNA by Lee Correy (AKA G. Harry Stine) a surface-to-orbit shuttle bulked-out because it was carrying a cargo of fluffy non-dense cotton underwear. While the shuttle could have theoretically lifted more cargo mass, there wasn't any more room in the cargo hold.

In international shipping, a standard cargo container is 33 cubic meters and can have a maximum mass of 24 metric tons (2.2 tons of container and up to 21.8 tons of cargo). An extra large cargo container is 67.5 cubic meters with a max mass of 30.5 metric tons (3.8 ton container with up to 26.7 tons cargo). Thanks to Karl Hauber for pointing out an error in the the old figures posted here.

In many SF novels, in addition to the cargo bay there will also be a safe to lock up small but valuable cargo items. This is generally in the Captain's office. And for customs officials, there may be official "seals" put on the openings of individual cargo crates or even on the hatches to the entire cargo bay. Such seals cannot be removed without destroying them, ensuring that nobody has tampered with the cargo or concealed any contraband.

Sickbay

What's in the sickbay? What you'd expect: medical supplies, diagnostic equipment, maybe a sick bed or two, maybe a suspended animation cryo-freeze to put a seriously ill or injured crewperson on ice until the ship can make it to port. It might have the luxury of a surgical bed, or the doctor might have to make do with a table in the mess deck. (This is why there is a tradition on military ships for off-duty personnel removing their headgear while on the mess deck. It is a sign of respect for the crewmembers who have in the past, or may in the future, suffer and die there.) During combat, the mess deck become the emergency triage/operating room. On a military ship, the sick bay may have its own separate life support system.

Unlike the other officers' cabins, which were fitted with more sophisticated equipment occupying much less space, Mercer's did not give much room for him to move. From the entry lock, the floor grill stretched ten feet to the curved plastic canopy that ran from below his feet to what was nominally the ceiling and gave, in the ship's present mode, a one hundred and eighty degree view of the inside of the outer hull, complete with structural members and brightly colored cable runs. The floor grill, which was just under three feet wide, separated two vertical tiers of bunks, eight on one side and five on the other. This was because the lowest one of the five was Mercer's, and he, being the doctor, needed much more than the twelve inches which divided patients' bunks.

A passenger unfortunate enough to come down with an infectious disease could be isolated from the living quarters and other patients, because the bunks were each fitted with an individual air supply and a hinged flap which sealed in the patient. Mercer did not suffer from claustrophobia, but he thought that any patient needing to spend more than a few days in one of those bunks would have to be kept under heavy sedation if he wasn't to blow his organic computer.

From Lifeboat by James White (1972)

Contents of NASA's Shuttle first aid medical kit (see right):

  1. bag
  2. blood-pressure cuff
  3. sterile drape
  4. flashlight
  5. disposable oral thermometers
  6. tongue depressors
  7. insertable airway
  8. cotton balls
  9. tourniquet
  10. Foley catheter (you don't want to know)
  11. sterile gloves
  12. fluorescein strips
  13. otoscope and ophthalmoscope heads
  14. stethoscope
  15. lubricant jelly

John Curry, comptroller of Eden Corporation, looked disturbed as he scanned the sheet of budget figures Tom had submitted to him several days before. "Doctor, I didn't realize you'd have to set up a complete hospital at GEO Base."

"We'll need a complete trauma center, as well as an intensive care unit," Tom explained. "I'll also have to be prepared to handle something more than runny noses; I'll need a pathology lab and a blood lab. I'll need radiology equipment because I can't send an employee back to the Jornada with broken bones I don't know about; the accelerations of return and atmospheric entry could kill a person if we didn't know where the break was and take steps to protect him against acceleration. If we could let him come back to Earth at all. We might have to let him heal up there."


Tom had worked out eight basic medical areas he would have to be prepared for. First, there were the usual job-related injuries that were physical: cuts, bruises, burns, abrasions, and even severed limbs. Then there were the pathological aspects, basically public health measures to block entry of infectious bacteria and viruses into space facilities as well as to counteract them when they did sneak in, as they always managed to do.

He also had to be prepared for what he termed the congenital afflictions—appendicitis, tonsilitis, cholecystitis, toothaches, etc. There would also be stress-related illnesses manifesting themselves in hypertension, cardiac problems, and psychosomatic conditions—plus psychological problems caused by isolation and phobias such as the one Ross Jackson had mentioned with the Gemini astronaut.

He had to keep watch for biochemical problems that might be exacerbated or brought on by dietary deficiencies, glandular imbalances, and so forth, plus the medical problems created by social interaction, because there were certain to be fights and alcoholism, and even some drug abuse, strict as the preflight inspection might be. Tom knew enough about human nature to realize somebody would either manage to sneak the stuff up or cobble together a vacuum still.

But the biggest problems were still environmental, the medical aspects of the space environment itself. At GEO Base, he knew he couldn't take a lot of things for granted, earthly things like food, water, temperature, atmosphere, and radiation. These were items that really had him worried.


From Space Doctor by Lee Correy (G. Harry Stine) 1981

Damage Control

Damage control facilities are generally only found on military vessels. One room will be Damage Control Central (DCC), often near or in the engineering section. This is where the Damage Control Officer coordinates the damage control parties. Generally you want the DCC to be in the section of the ship that is hardest to damage (actually, the second hardest spot to damage. The hardest spot should be occupied by the bridge/CIC).

There may be small damage control lockers sited at strategic locations throughout the ship. Locker contents may include hull patches, emergency power cables (i.e., glorified extension cords), short range radios, testing and sensing instruments, portable emergency power generators, fuses, fire extinguishers and tools. Lockers near the reactor or drive will also include geiger counters or other radiation detection and monitoring gear. The detectors will be mounted on long telescoping rods, so one can poke the detector around a corner or near a suspicious breach without exposing oneself. On wet-navy ships there is a special damage-control deck, which is the lowest deck with longitudinal breaks in the watertight bulkheads. This allows quick access to all parts of the ship. However, since our ships are tail-landers instead of belly-landers, in place of a damage-control deck might be one or more special ladderways running along the core of the spacecraft.

Christopher Weuve says that a merchant ship's primary piece of damage control equipment is a lifeboat.

A standard DCL is little more than a roomy closet. Each contains a full set of tools, power cutters and fire fighting equipment, plus a complete database of that particular area of the ship. A dedicated expert system is on hand to monitor the team's progress and inform them of the nature of the problem (if known) or the characteristics and schematics of the problem area.

The Jovian Confederation ship books have spacecraft designs that are remarkably scientifically accurate and will repay careful study. The accuracy is due to precise oversight by Marc Vezina.

Decontamination

If your ship may be boarding people who are infected with a deadly plague, malignant alien parasites, covered in dangerous chemicals, crawling with combat nanotechnology, or dusted with radioactive fallout, you probably do not want them getting your ship or crew dirty. A special airlock leading into a decontamination chamber would be in order.

This is a specialized feature not found on all ship types. You'd expect it on hospital ships, rescue ships, exploration ships, and ships bringing emergency supplies to planetary disaster sites.

A less effective but cheaper option is to use a "suitport". This is where a special space suit attaches its backpack to a hatch on the ship, and the astronaut exist the suit through the backpack. It does reduce, for instance, the external skin of the suit from transporting abrasive lunar dust contamination into the airlock. But the contamination on the backpack still has to be dealt with.

In H. Beam Piper's Uller Uprising, the atmosphere of the planet was highly toxic to humans (large amounts of fluorine and fluoride gasses). The pressurized human bases and vehicles had special airlocks, with three consecutive chambers and four doors. Only one door would open at a time, and the middle chamber was always in vacuum. The purpose was to minimize traces of the planetary atmosphere entering the pressurized base.

In the novel and movie The Andromeda Strain the doctors had to remove and burn their clothing, bathe in various chemical disinfectants, be exposed to ultraviolet rays, and have a xenon-flash unit burn the outer layer of skin and all their body hair into ash (except for the head).

The Andromeda Strain also had something akin to a suitport, but it was more like an entire body glove-box. Pressure suits had long telescoping tubes instead of backpacks.

Naturally the decontamination method depends upon the expected contaminant.

Also note that the decontamination only removes surface contamination. If the people have internal contamination (infected by plague or inhaling radioactive fallout) they will have to be put into a quarantine chamber.

In the TV show Star Trek, they use the hand-waving Transporter to remove contamination, internal and external. As their atomic structure is removed from the starting location and transported to the ship, any (known) harmful bacterial, virus, or dangerous elements are "filtered out". Which is hand-waving at best and has creepy dystopian applications at worse.

The Andromeda Strain

1. THERE ARE TO BE FIVE STAGES:

Stage I: Non-decontaminated, but clean. Approximates sterility of hospital operating room or NASA clean room. No time delay of entrance.

Stage II: Minimal sterilization procedures: hexachlorophene and methitol bath, not requiring total immersion. One-hour delay with clothing change.

Stage III: Moderate sterilization procedures: total-immersion bath, UV irradiation, followed by two-hour delay for preliminary testing. Afebrile infections of UR and GU tracts permitted to pass. Viral symptomatology permitted to pass.

Stage IV: Maximal sterilization procedures: total immersion in four baths of biocaine, monochlorophin, xantholysin, and prophyne with intermediate thirty-minute UV and IR irradiation. All infection hafted at this stage on basis of symptomatology or clinical signs. Routine screening of all personnel. Six-hour delay.

Stage V: Redundant sterilization procedures: no further immersions or testing, but destruct clothing x2 per day. Prophylactic antibiotics for forty-eight hours. Daily screen for superinfection, first eight days.


They began at a door, which said in plain white letters: TO LEVEL II. It was an innocuous, straightforward, almost mundane sign. Hall had expected something more — perhaps a stern guard with a machine gun, or a sentry to check passes. But there was nothing, and he noticed that no one had badges, or clearance cards of any kind.

He mentioned this to Stone. “Yes,” Stone said. “We decided against badges early on. They are easily contaminated and difficult to sterilize; usually they are plastic and high-heat sterilization melts them.”

The four men passed through the door, which clanged shut heavily and sealed with a hissing sound. It was airtight. Hall faced a tiled room, empty except for a hamper marked ‘clothing’. He unzipped his jumpsuit and dropped it into the hamper; there was a brief flash of light as it was incinerated.

Then, looking back, he saw that on the door through which he had come was a sign: “Return to Level I is NOT Possible Through this Access.”

He shrugged. The other men were already moving through the second door, marked simply EXIT. He followed them and stepped into clouds of steam. The odor was peculiar, a faint woodsy smell that he guessed was scented disinfectant. He sat down on a bench and relaxed, allowing the steam to envelop him. It was easy enough to understand the purpose of the steam room: the heat opened the pores, and the steam would be inhaled into the lungs.

The four men waited, saying little, until their bodies were coated with a sheen of moisture, and then walked into the next room.

Leavitt said to Hall, “What do you think of this?”

“It's like a goddam Roman bath,” Hall said.

The next room contained a shallow tub (“Immerse Feet ONLY”) and a shower. (“Do not swallow shower solution. Avoid undue exposure to eyes and mucous membranes.”) It was all very intimidating. He tried to guess what the solutions were by smell, but failed; the shower was slippery, though, which meant it was alkaline. He asked Leavitt about this, and Leavitt said the solution was alpha chlorophin at pH 7.7. Leavitt said that whenever possible, acidic and alkaline solutions were alternated.

“When you think about it,” Leavitt said, “we've faced up to quite a planning problem here. How to disinfect the human body — one of the dirtiest things in the known universe — without killing the person at the same time. Interesting.”

He wandered off. Dripping wet from the shower, Hall looked around for a towel but found none. He entered the next room and blowers turned on from the ceiling in a rush of hot air. From the sides of the room, UV lights clicked on, bathing the room in an intense purple light. He stood there until a buzzer sounded, and the dryers turned off. His skin tingled slightly as he entered the last room, which contained clothing. They were not jumpsuits, but rather like surgical uniforms — light-yellow, a loose-fitting top with a V-neck and short sleeves; elastic banded pants; low rubber-soled shoes, quite comfortable, like ballet slippers.


The second decontamination procedure was similar to the first. Hall's yellow clothing, though he had worn it just an hour, was incinerated.

“Isn't that rather wasteful?” he asked Burton.

Burton shrugged. “It's paper.”

“Paper? That cloth?”

Burton shook his head. “Not cloth. Paper. New process.”

They stepped into the first total-immersion pool. Instructions on the wall told Hall to keep his eyes open under water. Total immersion, he soon discovered, was guaranteed by the simple device of making the connection between the first room and the second an underwater passage. Swimming through, he felt a slight burning of his eyes, but nothing bad.

The second room contained a row of six boxes, glass-walled, looking rather like telephone booths. Hall approached one and saw a sign that said, “Enter and close both eyes. Hold arms slightly away from body and stand with feet one foot apart. Do not open eyes until buzzer sounds. BLINDNESS MAY RESULT FROM EXPOSURE TO LONG-WAVE RADIATION.”

He followed the directions and felt a kind of cold heat on his body. It lasted perhaps five minutes, and then he heard the buzzer and opened his eyes. His body was dry. He followed the others to a corridor, consisting of four showers. Walking down the corridor, he passed beneath each shower in turn. At the end, he found blowers, which dried him, and then clothing. This time the clothing was white.

They dressed, and took the elevator down to Level III.


After two hours, he rejoined the others, and proceeded to Level IV.

Four total-immersion baths, three sequences of ultraviolet and infrared light, two of ultrasonic vibrations, and then something quite astonishing at the end. A steel-walled cubicle, with a helmet on a peg. The sign said, “This is an ultraflash apparatus. To protect head and facial hair, place metal helmet securely on head, then press button below.”

Hall had never heard of ultraflash, and he followed directions, not knowing what to expect. He placed the helmet over his head, then pressed the button.

There was a single, brief, dazzling burst of white light, followed by a wave of heat that filled the cubicle. He felt a moment of pain, so swift he hardly recognized it until it was over. Cautiously, he removed the helmet and looked at his body. His skin was covered with a fine, white ash — and then he realized that the ash was his skin, or had been: the machine had burned away the outer epithelial layers. He proceeded to a shower and washed the ash off. When he finally reached the dressing room, he found green uniforms.

From The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton (1969)