Sunday, September 29, 2013

First Post-Copenhagen Organizational Meeting for Project ALPHA

First meeting after joining with Copenhagen Suborbitals. From L to R, me, Alexander Knapton, the Planning Board with 2014 Water / Capsule Testing and 2015 Flight issues laid out, Nicholas Walleri and Ben Wilson. Missing here are Washoe McGruder, John F. Haslett and Bruce Matiya. Website, etc. all in the works now. The days of working on this alone are over, as we are part, now, of a manned space program. All well! Second photo shows Apollo 1 crew in water training some months before their fatal launch-pad fire in January 1967.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Newton, Again!

"A man may imagine a thing that is false, but he can only understand a thing that is true. For if a thing be false, the apprehension of it is not understanding."

-- Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

Photo: a beautiful bust of Newton, on the desk of N. DeGrasse Tyson!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

New Article in OMNI: Seeing Stars: Sex in Space

We're going nowhere, long term, away from Earth, until we grapple with both biological reproduction off-Earth (sex) and the many ways that issue is blurred and mediated interpersonally (sexuality). In this article for the venerable and now resurrected futurist magazine OMNI, I introduce some of these issues. Thanks to editor Claire L. Evans for asking for this article.

If the anthropological issues regarding human space migration interest you, you might like to have a look at my recent book, Emigrating Beyond Earth: Human Adaptation and Space Colonization (Springer, 2012).

Sunday, September 22, 2013


After last Sunday's demonstration of the suit at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (pictured; me, Washoe Magruder in the suit, Ben Wilson, Nicholas Walleri, Alexander Knapton, and a space enthusiast wearing a costume!) today I knocked out some organizational issues today in preparation for our first formal post-Copenhagen organizational meeting next week. Plenty to do! I also took some time to get back into some manual work, cutting a mounting ring for one elbow's constant volume joint, and in fact fitting it temporarily into the Butyl joint itself. Diagram shows Project Alpha as the US arm of Copenhagen Suborbitals; now to more carefully organize Project Alpha's subdivisions, responsibilities and schedules. Website before long to start the Countdown!

Time to Build the Capsule

Still wrapping up some results from the recent visit to Copenhagen, and now sketching out my ideas for building a replica of the Tycho capsule for closely integrating the life-support system with the suit and capsule. In the photo, Kristian is installing me in the seat before an escape test.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Roland and Charlemagne

Today I read Glynn Burgess' translation of the 12th century tale "The Song of Roland". It's a Medieval battle, with treachery among even those on the same side. Like a lot of these Penguin Classics, the intro and notes are almost as good as the story itself, giving you a rich historical context. Here's a memorable scene of Roland, a knight of Charlemagne, blasting his horn for help, and Ganelon, a treacherous knight of Charlemagne, trying to convince the emperor to ignore the call for help so that Roland will be helpless and overrun by the enemy. These lines would have been sung by a jongeleur, a singing orator, with mimes and gestures and some simple special effects:

"Count Roland, with pain and distress
Sounds his oliphant [horn] in great agony
The clear blood gushes from his mouth
And in his skull the temple bursts...
Charlemagne hears it...the Franks listen to it.
The king says "I can hear Roland's horn!
He would never blow it if he were not in a fight!"
Ganelon replies,
"There is no battle,
you are old, hoary and white-haired,
You are well aware of Roland's great pride...
For a mere hare he would blow the horn all day...
just boasting before his peers...
Keep riding, why do you delay? France is very far ahead."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pressure Suit in 'The Guardian'

Many small discrepancies in this story in The Guardian, but it gets the gist across.

My Project ALPHA--website being built now--is now the US arm of Copenhagen Suborbitals, with the first manned flight slated for Summer 2015. I'll be the pilot, wearing my home-built pressure suit that will sustain my life above the Armstrong Line at 63,000 feet.

Plenty to do an a return to Copenhagen, I hope, as soon as this Winter!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Interstellar Migration Population paper; Edits and Revamp

After mind-melting experiences in Copenhagen I needed to change channels for a little while. I spent the last week reviewing and revamping my paper on the genetics of multigenerational interstellar voyaging. Humanity isn't ready to do this, but that's fine, it will take a long time to get ready. This is part of my effort in Icarus Interstellar's Project Hyperion, an international team laying the groundwork for a 100-year study of the physics of interstellar flight for human populations; the idea is to provide humanity with the physics and propulsion needed to make such voyages, if we want to do so, 100 years from now...pretty 'out there' stuff! I'll present this paper at a NASA-DARPA conference in Houston later this year. Abstract below. I think it;s ready for publication and am now massaging it for submission to Acta Astronautica;

Estimation of a Genetically and Demographically Viable Founding Population for Multigenerational Interstellar Voyaging

Cameron M. Smith
Department of Anthropology
Portland State University
August 2013
9,237 words, discounting references


Designing interstellar starships for human migration to exoplanets requires establishing the starship population, which factors into many variables including closed-ecosystem design, architecture, mass and propulsion. I review the central issues of population genetics (effects of mutation, migration, selection and drift) and demographics (population size, age, and sex structure on departure) for human populations on such voyages, specifically referencing a roughly 5-generation (c.150-year) voyage currently in the realm of thought among the Icarus Interstellar research group. I present several formulae as well as concrete numbers that can be used to help determine populations that could survive such journeys in good health. I find that previously-proposed multigenerational voyage populations, on the order of a few hundred individuals, are significantly too low to consider based on current understanding of vertebrate (including human) genetics and population dynamics. Population genetics theory, calculations and computer modeling determine that a properly-screened and age- and sex-structured total founding population (Nc) of anywhere from roughly 14,000 to 44,000 people would be sufficient to survive such journeys in good health. A safe and well-considered Nc figure is 40,000, an ‘IMP’ or interstellar migrant population composed of an effective population [Ne] of 23,400 reproductive males and females, the rest being pre- or post-reproductive individuals. This number would maintain good health over five generations despite (a) increased inbreeding resulting from a relatively small and isolated human population, (b) depressed genetic diversity due to the founder effect, (c) demographic change through time and (d) expectation of at least one severe population catastrophe over the 5-generation voyage.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Altitude Chamber Audio

Audio from inside my pressure suit during altitude chamber test. Not much happens until about 1:20:00, just before we seal the visor. This is what it sounds like inside a space suit!

Link: HERE.

2015 Flight Garment Modifications

Everything begins with a pencil, paper, and a calculator. Today's 6am sketch of mods for the Generation II suit to be used in the 2015 Project Alpha flight, which will take me by gas balloon to above the Armstrong Line (63,000 feet), where a properly-functioning pressure garment (or capsule) is essential for human life. An ascent rate of about 1000 feet per minute will take me up in about an hour, descent taking somewhat longer. The flight will test communications systems, life-support systems, offshore launch and recovery operations, and many other systems and procedures to be used in Copenhagen Suborbitals' manned rocket flights, scheduled for some time within the next five or so years. In 2014 I will go back to Copenhagen for water landing and other training, and in 15 to do the actual flight. No time to lose!