Monday, January 27, 2014

Descent Modules Compared

Single-person descent modules compared, Figure by Dr. C.M. Smith of Pacific Spaceflight.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

27 Jan 1967

27 Jan 1967, 47 years ago, Virgil Grissom, Ed White & Roger Chaffee died in a ground test of an Apollo capsule. Ad astra per aspera!

Grissom, L, had flown in Mercury and Gemini; White, center, made the second walk in space; Chaffee was a rookie and had not yet flown in space. Capsule fire in high-pressure oxygen atmosphere. Capsules remained 100% oxygen throughout the Apollo programme, but pressure was reduced to 5psi in the cabin with no ill effects to crew over week-long-plus voyages. The Apollo 13 explosion was not a result of capsule oxygen at 100%.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


We have been working on this constant-volume elbow joint for months. All hand-stitched and reinforced with coated 2mm steel cables, hand-swaged here at home. At 3psi, no problem flexing the elbow! None! Since a major contributing factor to altitude decompression sickness is pilot exercise, any improvement in suit mobility lowers the chance of that condition. This works beautifully after dozens of sketches and late nights of prototyping, it actually bloody well works! Tomorrow I can sleep in, very late. TRIUMPH!

Thursday, January 23, 2014


Just a memorable passage from Milton, Paradise Lost, Book IV, quoted recently in England's National Theatre production of Frankenstein, which was quite a production!

Silence was pleas'd: now glow'd the Firmament
With living Saphirs: Hesperus that led
The starrie Host, rode brightest, till the Moon
Rising in clouded Majestie, at length
Apparent Queen unvaild her peerless light,
And o're the dark her Silver Mantle threw.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Evolution Talk February 2014

I'm thrilled and honored to have been asked to talk on Darwin Day at the Center for Inquiry (established by Carl Sagan and others in 1976) in Los Angeles in February. I'll cover the currently-assembling Extended Evolutionary Synthesis, a genomics-informed update of evolutionary theory. Two talks, actually, one in Hollywood at 11am, the other at 4:30pm in Costa Mesa.

Friday, January 17, 2014


I mostly post my space-related items here, but my job is that of an archaeologist. I'm so lucky to have a long-term (20+ years now!) archaeological project in such a beautiful place as the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. At tonight's talk I was encouraged to sort of speak widely and freely about our experiences out there, looking into the world of the Chinookan people who lived here for some thousands of years, and it was a great night out. I was honored to be greeted by Sam Robinson, Chairman of the Chinook Nation, at the beginning of the talk, who invited me to come on a native canoe journey in the Summer. Link to my presentation, as a PDF, can be found under "Talks" (scroll down -- see left side of the page) at my academia site.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Acta Astronautica Article

Individuals buy insurance for unforseen events. What about species insurance, for terrible disasters to our species, globally? Every geology book shows you that's not unreasonable for our species on this one little planet. I suggest no taxpayer dollars be spent on space colonization plans; we have plenty to work out here on Earth. But we should also plan for a long-term future beyond Earth, and that can be done privately. For that reason I'm working with the research group, Icarus Interstellar (, to develop a long-term, interstellar insurance policy for humanity. My first peer-reviewed article on this is now in print at Acta Astronautica, journal of the International Academy of Astronautics. I am quite proud of this article, which argues that humanity's first extraterrestrial migrants should number in the tens of thousands, not the low thousands, or even hundreds, proposed by earlier researchers. How to build starships for 10s of thousands of migrants is up to the engineers and propulsion people The abstract is available below (drafts of it posted previously). Full article access depends on your library, but nearly any library can get nearly anything through interlibrary loan systems. LINK.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Photo by Jev Olsen

Our partner, Copenhagen Suborbitals, has several photographers; one is an affable fellow, Jev Olsen, who shot and then manipulated this photo of John F. Haslett (l) and me (r) putting Kristian von Bengtson, lead capsule designer, into the pressure suit in Summer 2013. Jev makes interesting color corrections to his photos, giving them what I see as a gritty, watercolor or wash feel. We'll be back in Copenhagen in just over six months for more suit-capsule integration, and exciting water-landing and capsule-egress demonstrations and tests -- a thrilling prospect!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Biological Evolution in Interstellar Human Migration - Repost

Repost of an item for Centauri Dreams, Paul Gilster's influential blog regarding interstellar exploration.

Centauri Dreams is happy to welcome Dr. Cameron M. Smith, a prehistorian at Portland State University’s Department of Anthropology in Portland, OR, with an essay that is the capstone of this week’s worldship theme. Dr. Smith began his career excavating million-year-old stone tools in Africa and today combines his archaeological interests with a consideration of human evolution and space colonization. He is applying this interest in his collaboration with the scientists at Icarus Interstellar’s Project Hyperion, a reference study for an interstellar craft capable of voyaging to a distant star. Recently Dr. Smith presented a paper at the NASA/DARPA ’100 Year Starship Study’ conference in Houston, Texas. His recent popular science publications in this field include “Starship Humanity” (Scientific American 2013) and the book Emigrating Beyond Earth: Human Adaptation and Space Colonization (Springer-Praxis, 2013). We can look forward to a follow-up article to this one in coming weeks. ARTICLE.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Interstellar Migration article for Acta Astronautica

Below a link to a new article I've written for Acta Astronautica, journal of the International Academy of Astronautics. It's part of my work with Icarus Interstellar.


This article is the result of three years' thinking, two years' research and a year of writing and editing. It went through several severe peer reviews that significantly improved the manuscript. I feel good about the numbers, and starship designers at Icarus Interstellar can now reference this study as a reviewed, good ballpark estimate for populations while developing starship designs and near-light-speed propulsion technologies.

This week we start moving Pacific Spaceflight across the river to a light-industrial workshop.

Anchors Aweigh! This is going to be one exciting year!