Monday, December 29, 2014

Cold Chamber!

Last summer we had some good test experiences in a cold chamber, testing the suit and its Life Support System at -20F. We'll be back in there this coming year for a more controlled test, which will be written up as a technical brief. The three technical briefs so far written can be found here. Photo by A. Magruder.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

New Research Brief Online

Between the thrilling and dramatic tests, there are hundreds of hours of building and planning the pressure suit project. I am organizing the precipitates of this work into research briefs that I archive online in PDF format; you can find the latest by clicking here.

Friday, December 5, 2014

At TEDx Brussels

My buddy Louis-Philippe Loncke is wearing the suit on stage as I describe its function and construction. A good week in Brussels and Toronto/Waterloo!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Video Archive of My Talk at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

What a week, first at TEDx Brussels (link later), then the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, where I was thrilled to be given an office for the day in the Hawking Wing.

If you prefer, a direct link.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Second Trailer for Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics Talk

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Talk at Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics / Trailer

Talk is in Waterloo, Canada on 03 Dec. That's a couple of days after the TED talk in Brussels, which I'll link here, later.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Great Test Tonight!

All gastight, all electrics OK! From YouTube -- "Alexander Knapton shutting down the trainer after a good check of the electrics and C02 scrubber system. Dr. CM Smith on radio running monitor cabinet exterior. Alexander is wearing the helmet but is not pressurized in this test. For more see, or find us on twitter @Pacific_Space."

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Congratulations, Little Philae!

The little, washing-machine-sized Philae lander, after ten years cruising through harsh interplanetary space on the back of the European Space Agency's Rosetta craft, finally caught up with comet 67/P and landed today. The terrains are mind-mangling. Here are photons on your screen bringing you an image of a free-floating body of rock and ice several times the size of Mt. Everest that tumbles through space on an orbit that takes it from about the orbit of Mars out to the orbit of Jupiter before swinging back again...For centuries, the comet was a blurry sky-object of mystery, a demon, harbinger of, we humans see it a speck of dust in the galaxy, and we can send our own grain of dust, and little bundles of wire and cables and computer chips that act as extensions of our own senses, to land on that speck of dust after ten years of exposure to the chill of interplanetary space, cosmic radiation and a thousand other shocks. Incredible! I added a 747 to scale to give an impression of the size.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Installed Biomedical Sensors

Sunday, November 2, 2014


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Visit from Tom and Tina Sjogren

Friday, October 17, 2014

Published: 'Three Ages to the Stars'

New popular-science publication in the Swedish journal Glänta. This is "Three Ages to the Stars: Recommendations for the Adaptation of Human Biology and Culture Beyond Earth", available in English, with additional Figures, at my page.

As NASA and others more realistically and carefully look at space colonization concepts these days, evolution--both cultural and biological--must be considered at all levels. I'm sketching that out in a new book, Principles of Space Anthropology, slated for release in 2018 (publisher pending paperwork!).

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Prototype C02 Scrubber

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

High Pressure Test #2

Sunday, October 5, 2014

High Adventure

Wow, in an impromptu pressure test tonight things were feeling good so I kept adding suit pressure from 2 psi to 3, then up to 4, then up to five. Suit seams were creaking, there were popping and groaning sounds, the helmet hold-down buckle slipped and then failed, and I could only read the top row of my instruments! Exciting business, we reduced pressure and all was OK. As you're strapped into this system you feel slowly that you are reverting to infancy, completely dependent on exterior systems to survive. You are tightly strapped into a reclined seat, watching your suit pressure and C02 numbers, and at high suit pressure you are encased in a suit of iron. Very interesting sensations! A lot of good information tonight.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Wrapping up 4th Airframe Build -- Next One Is the Real Flying Machine!

Wrapping up trainer build. In a few months this itself will be dismantled and the instruments and controls transferred to the airframe of the actual flying machine! This trainer is really good, result of 4 prior builds and stripped down (almost) to the minimum, which is what we need. Tight fit!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

AOK For Takeoff

All well for takeoff in Bell 206 Long Ranger, suit at 'loitering pressure' of 0.5psi!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Building the 2015 Flight Trainer

A lot of fun building yesterday, late into last night and today -- a lot of the plumbing in for gasses and fluids, but waiting for Alexander Knapton to put in our wiring. I have a lot of fun envisioning the flights as I build, and of course since the main flight will be something on the order of an hour or two, it's important to enjoy everything leading up to that little window of time. This is the third cockpit / life support system build since 2011 and I think it's very close to how the 2015 airship will look RE the interior. Fun visit from Bruce today, he gave the thumbs up, sounds good considering he designs and builds race car cockpits and he has no worries about the wild flight pattern, or the unconventional balloon I want to build, rather he joins in on the fun about how unlikely a lot of these ideas are. Bruce, a retired engineering technician, flew planes "back in the 70's when everything was less was a big deal when we started using altimeters!".

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Departure

One of my favorite pieces of modern music, "The Departure", by M. Nyman at ORF Radio Symphonic Orchestra at the film music festival "Hollywood in Vienna.

On the Moone!

Just a great, dream-inducing illustration from Konstantin Tsiolkovski's 1893 work, 'On the Moon'. This 'crazy dreamer' established rocket science at the turn of the century, mostly by pencil, paper, math and a few models.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Concepts and Work for TEDx Brussels Talk this Winter

Chugging along. All of this gets folded into my talk on 'The Terrain and the Map', a talk on evolution and exploration in the genus Homo, this Winter.

First, wrapping up work on something lingering since 2004, when I realized that what I'd learned of hauling a sledge in Iceland could be of use on Mars. Nobody is going to Mars to sit in a can all day, the whole point will be to be out and about, exploring the terrain. There are good reasons to do this sometimes afoot, rather than by mechanized vehicle, so what we know from similar such sledge- or cart-hauling here on Earth will be of use. Figure draft for an article for Journal of the British Interplanetary Society or Acta Astronautica. Deals with such a nonmechanized cart and such issues as wheel size, axle height, trace length and so on. Will be coauthored with my buddy Louis-Philippe Loncke, who has plenty of manhauling experience himself! Draft figure below.

And some concepts, beginning with a quote from primatologist Alison Jolly;

"in each [major transition in evolution], living organisms have gained internal information and control...the original genes, coalescing to live like modern viruses within the prebiotic soup did just that...[later assembling] a cell...after another billion years, these cells [built] multicellular bodies that supported their gametes and fed them, protected them, and carried them about. Each [major transition in evolution] has required greater input of energy. Each has required construction or coordination of a vast external sphere, a new environment, to clothe the naked reproducing creature within...In this light, current human technology lies in the same tradition of other biological innovations [with a] quantum leap in knowledge of how to control our environment...It would be hubris to claim that no other organism has so transformed the Earth's environment. After all, plants and their offspring created our oxygenated atmosphere. We are...approaching the same power. We have tilled the land, felled the forests and polluted..the oceans. We have suspended a nuclear sword of Damocles over the head of the biosphere...We do not know yet if our technological venture will succeed or fail." -- p. 459-460 of Jolly, A. 1985. The Evolution of Primate Behavior. New York, MacMillan.

Well there is another possibility -- our technology might fail (actually, be completely abused) on Earth and be responsibly used beyond Earth if we can manage to live beyond Earth. Some people do learn, and mature; we have recycling today in many countries whereas a generation ago it was an alien idea. Slavery, in name anyway, is largely eliminated. The incidence of total warfare has actually decreased since the 19th century. But it might be too late on Earth, the structures of power and influence too fossilized to change in time before a general disintegration of civilization elements and a return to a Dark Age of local warlords. Last time we did that it was a thousand years before we got out. So I support space exploration, at very little federal cost (heck, I don't WANT the federal government to 'lead'!) and at the same time as our efforts to improve Earth life. But we have to spread out. That means reinvention of space technologies from the ground up. Or at least, re-evaluation.

I have four steps in mind:

1. Review existing designs. If they're good and of reasonable cost, keep them. If they're bloated old federal or military projects, consign them to history. This might sound easy but requires a considerable 'turning of the back' to a generation of being told that the federal way is the ony way, that only NASA or the ESA or ROSKOSMOS can do it. This is why completely private groups--unattached to the federal supply-line and all that it implies--like Copenhagen Suborbitals, the Sweden Rocket Research Group, Peter Madsen's ‎Raketmadsens Rumlaboratorium and my own Pacific Spaceflight are important. We may make innovations and redesign with no worry of loss of federal contracts. We're free to explore design and drive technological revolutions--if we turn out to be smart enough! Of course,it might not just be smarts that are required. A lot of the deep dark secrets of pressure suit design, I've learned, for instance, are a lot of mumbo-jumbo and deliberate obfuscation and concealment by various contractors to the federal contract-granting vault. Sometimes the revolutions in technology will simply be in realizing that what you have been told about space technologies is simply false.

2. Begin rebuilding systems and subsystems, e.g. rocket boosters, at lower cost and with many tests to arrive at best designs by selection on slight variation. This is the principle of evolution (a good track record of 3.5 billion years of field testing billions of processes and designs!) and evolutionary computing on this principle is used in commonly in aricraft engineering today.

3. Begin testing these new systems. We must be safe, but only safe enough. NASA recently proudly announced that after four years, its new manned spaceflight capsule is 'set to be ready to test in several years'. That endless approach is too cautious and has kept us in low Earth orbit since 1973. From Mercury to moon landing was just over a decade. To test we must rediscover our cojones and get to work. NASA is today a timid, navelgazing bureaucracy. Until they get their act back together as regards an aggressive schedule for development and testing, others will have to do it. And, others should; space exploration is for the many, not the few. There will be dangers, but, as SR-71 Test Pilot Bob Gilliland said of his first 'Blackbird' flight; "When we got going...for the actual first flight [of the SR71] had 383 'open items'. These are things that are supposed to be working that aren't working. So it was a bare-bones type of operation for the first flight. And you might say these kind of things could be dangerous, but there were plenty of people who wanted to be in my position, I assure you of that. "

4. Bypass the legalities of flying to and beyond Earth orbit and begin living in space. All manner of regulations will be used by federal governments to control space access. This must be overcome, and early, to prevent federal manipulation of human space activities. The universe does not belong to any government but to all humanity. This will largely be a legal battle.

(c) 2014 Cameron M. Smith

Monday, September 8, 2014

2015 Flight Systems and Subsystems Diagram

Designing most of these systems now, start building in a few weeks. Plenty to do and not a minute to lose! Not sure whether we'll build the conventional 'upside down onion' or cylindrical balloon (each has its pros and cons), but one way or another, we fly again in '15, and this time as high as we can in the Mark III Plasma pressure suit!

PDF available via the Pacific Spaceflight 'Documents' page.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Kelp Diving!

While in LA I went diving with my old buddy John Haslett, with whom I have voyaged twice on the Pacific (up the coast of Central America and from Oakland to Ventura) and had many other fine adventures. There was a storm swell up and S-facing beaches were being pounded, the sand being drawn off them leaving shifting cobbles underfoot. We each took a beating getting in and out -- but once past the breakers it was great diving in swirling, sometimes very sandy waters.

Four dives in the kelp off Palos Verdes and Leo Carillo. Sea urchins a foot across and big black sea snails! The feeling of being helplessly swept forward 30 feet at a time was Ok once you knew that in a few seconds the surge would draw you right back to where you were a few moments ago. It was a glorious feeling of submission to the elements, while maintaining some control over my breathing, bouyancy and so on. I sketched these impressions while waiting for a plane.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Puzzle Pieces

It's thrilling to be involved, even in the smallest way, in reducing the cost of access to space, in my project to build simpler and cheaper space suits.

Ten thousand small puzzle-pieces, old space hardware items, will have to be reinvented to be lighter and longer-lasting than their equivalents from the First Space Age. Much of that has already been done -- one reason the interior of the Dragon V2 capsule looks so spare is that all the old gyros, gauges, switches and so on have been replaced by smaller and lighter units; e.g. the 300+ switches of an Apollo command module are now largely on a touch-screen, aside from the most essential items. A lot of automation is a scary thought...until you think. If you fly in an Airbus 330 your air crew control about 3 minutes of takeoff and 3 minutes of landing, the rest being largely automated (six minutes of flying time for a cross-Atlantic flight!). Russian spacecraft have been highly automated for a long time, with few errors resulting. A big part of spacecraft weight (mass) reduction is in this shift to the 'glass cockpit'.

Reducing the weigh and complexity of space suits is also important, but only one small puzzle piece in the thoroughgoing overhaul of space hardware that will be required to make it significantly cheaper to get to space. And that is an important thing to do, as I describe in this talk for NASA--humanity has a past, but also a long-distance future, and that must be beyond Earth.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

17,000 Feet at 45 Knots

Video frames from the test flight in a Bell 206, jut over 17,000 feet and only 45 knots forward air speed!

Monday down to LA for work in the private space industry, consulting in a space suit development lab. Progress here on the next generation suit is good, but will take a back seat for a week or so.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pacific Spaceflight 2014-2015 Project Summary

Project summary for Pacific Spaceflight. Direct link to the document is here.

This morning I had a fun discussion with Dr. Walter De Brouwer, at NASA-AMES, who recently invited me to talk at TedX Brussels this year (01 December). We shaped up concepts for my talk on 'The Map and the Territory: Concept and Reality in Human Space Settlement'. This will be an integration of my three levels of participation in the project of human space settlement. reflected in the document above. Level 1 = actual development of new technologies to reduce the cost of space access (the pressure suit project), Level 2, = development of technologies for Mars exploration and settlement and Level 3 = conceptual work and research (some begun here) regarding long-distance human futures in space.

Following the talk in Brussels I will talk (on 03 December) on the same subjects at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Wateroo, Canada;

'Perimeter Institute is a leading centre for scientific research, training and educational outreach in foundational theoretical physics. Founded in 1999 in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, [our] mission is to advance our understanding of the universe at the most fundamental level, stimulating the breakthroughs that could transform our future. Perimeter also trains the next generation of physicists through innovative programs, and shares the excitement and wonder of science with students, teachers and the general public.

Plenty to prepare!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

My NASA Talk Online

Last month I did a presentation for many NASA managers at the NASA / U-Texas/Austin Future-in-Space Working Group teleconference. The talk is on the biological and cultural dimensions of human space settlement, based on many recent writings, including 'Emigrating Beyond Earth: Human Adaptation and Space Colonization', coauthored with Dr. Evan Davies.

The audio and the powerpoint are now available at the link below.

It was really wild to hear everyone on the line chime in before the talk, "___ NASA Marshall", "___ NASA Houston", "______ NASA Ames", "____ NASA Canaveral", "_____ JPL" etc. About 20 NASA and another 20 of various other affiliations. Thrilled and honored to be included in such talks as ""The Z Suits: NASA's Next Generation Space Suits for Exploration" -- Phil Spampinato , ILC Dover, "Copernicus Trajectory Design and Optimization System" -- Jerry Condon , NASA Johnson and "Artificial Gravity, the ISS, and a Solution to Long-Duration Space Flight" -- Laurence Young , MIT . Good to represent Portland State as well!

If you're interested (I'm second down from the top):

Saturday, August 9, 2014

17,000 Foot Test Flight Audio Log Transcription

The test flight to 17,000 feet went flawlessly. The pressure suit (a) held pressure, (b) delivered breathing gas, (c) exhausted my exhaled carbon dioxide, (d) regulated my temperature with coolant flow, and (e) allowed enough mobility with the new convolute elbows that I could do the work I needed to do. Last year this time we were in an altitude chamber in Copenhagen, at a simulated altitude of 13,000 feet, where the function of the pressure suit gave my body a perceived altitude of only 8,500 feet. This time, we were at a real altitude of 17,000 feet, where the function of the pressure suit gave my body a perceived altitude of only 11,200 feet. All of this was a result of great work by the Pacific Spaceflight team in building the various systems, developing good procedures and checklists, and multiple test flight simulations that further refined our procedures. Could not have gone better! A transcript of the test flight, with some of my comments and reports, is shown in the two figures above.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Wrapped up video shoot week with a clight to 17,000 feet in the AM and a 30-minute session underwater (no pictures of that, yet). An intense and invigorating week, the Pacific Spaceflight crew worked well and solved many problems on-the-fly. The flight test was the smoothest of all, with best function of all systems! Tomorrow I sleep in.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Big day today, interesting plans! We'll run late, though, and I won't be able to post until tomorrow (Sunday).