Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Wilderness of Ideas

A favorable review of my book, Emigrating Beyond Earth: Human Adaptation and Space Colonization is now online. The reviewer? Tina Sjogren, half of the husband-and-wife team currently assembling a private expedition to Mars, slated to begin in 2018. I am thrilled to have their support and understanding.

Contrary to the 1960's space race, the trend in space exploration now is in decentralization; there are no single Titans, such as the Americans' von Braun, or the Soviet's Korolyev; rather the effort is distributed, with many players each a part of a large, unruly patchwork. This approach is less focused, and will result in both multiple failures and multiple successes. The main advantage is that without having to satisfy taxpayers or--shudder--politicians, these programs are now free to move ahead in whatever way they please. There is no single, short-term goal, there are dozens of dreams, a wilderness of ideas, and some of them are going to pan out.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Pressure Suit 2009-2013

Photo shows the pressure suit in 2009, and in 2013. It has come a long, long way! Starting 17 August I will be in Copenhagen to put the suit to a pressure test in an altitude chamber, as well as start integrating it with Copenhagen Suborbitals' Tycho space capsule. I will fulfill a dream that I have had since before I was 10 years old; to climb into a space capsule wearing a pressure suit! And this is no costume or playtime, this is a real pressure suit, and a real spacecraft, each being built by private individuals and organizations!

Presuming everything checks out, starting next summer I will fly a series of tests of the suit in a capsule suspended beneath a balloon, to check the suit out for the flight, scheduled some years from now. All has worked out beautifully. A few more tests here in Portland, and I will be on my way.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


GALILEO:"...Did you see the frightened look in his eye when he caught sight of a world not created solely for the purpose of doing business?" from scene III of 'Galileo' by Bertold Brecht. In the photo, Earth as seen in a recent photo from the Cassini probe orbiting Saturn, 900 million miles away.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Major Breathing Gas and Temperature Breakthroughs

Seven hours of headbanging demolished the free-flow we were getting through one regulator. A new issue came up, but we will brainstorm on it a few days before the next test. Huge breakthrough! It came from Ben Wilson taking the regulator apart one step farther than I'd previously known possible and making a tiny adjustment. Nice camera angle from high up. Washoe Magruder's modifications to the orange coverall worked, as well as to the coolant suit, which now runs ice water across the chest, down the arms to the wrists as well as to the legs! Hoorah! Suit temp now closer to 70F than 90+F! Major breakthrough there as well! Thanks to the intrepid crew, from L to R, of Alexander Knapton, Nicholas Walleri, yours truly, Washoe Magruder and Ben Wilson, also seen in the new coolant suit.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Destination DIY Radio Story

New nationally-broadcast radio show featuring my pressure suit project (this will air in Portland this Sunday -- maybe we'll listen to it during a break in our pressure test :) Nice to hear NASA and others not calling us crazy, and the integration with Copenhagen Suborbitals. Direct link. This production is part of the STEM Story Project, with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and presented by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange.

Monday, July 8, 2013


Busy; last night I dreamed about a pressure regulator that is giving us problems. In the dream I discovered the difficulty, but on waking realized that that solution was not applicable in the real world. A couple of years ago, piled under three books I was writing, I dreamt of DNA molecules. In the past I've dreamed of crevasses, icefall and avalanche. Now, it's a breathing gas regulator the size of a pack of cards. We've taken it apart, and put it back together, and I do think I understand the issue now; we'll find out this coming weekend! In the photos, several of us putting Ben Wilson into the suit (L to R, Alexander Knapton, Ben Wilson, me, Nicholas Walleri) -- photo by Amy Magruder -- and me in the suit, wearing also the orange flameproof coverall. Less than 60 days to altitude chamber test in Copenhagen. Exhausted but thrilled to be working on a pressure suit for Copenhagen Suborbitals!

Exciting development here, recently, regarding a private expedition to Mars, and I will post on that later, when I can catch my breath!