Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas 2015

Visiting family in California, after an intensive year of talks, pressure suit developments and writing. Also a new illustration for my Iceland book, which was written over several years and which I am editing at the moment. Back to flight training now, for testing and certification in January 2016 so that I can start flying my pressure suit!

From the book, and related to the drawing below:

"It is known that each Icelandic valley ('dalur') is attended by some ghoul; from trolls to witches, giantesses, ghost-sorcerers....elves and goblins...As I scurried along a frozen river that ribboned down the bottom of the Hofelsdalur--my headlamp just a spark in the night-- hurricane-force wild winds whipped snow from the peaks and then avalanched down on me in bizarre vertical downdrafts. I imagined a great ghoul up in the crags, thrilled to have discovered a plaything in his lonely valley. The steep black basalt valley walls were snaked with frozen waterfalls that terminated half way down, acres of ice crust spattered below on near-vertical rock."

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

New Iceland Drawing!

Up Periscope! Grades turned in, I'm a free man! From my book-in-progress on my Iceland expeditions;

"I slowly gained elevation up the low grade of the glacier. Strange ice and snow features, sculpted by wind, rain, and summer sun, occasionally caught my eye. The ice I walked on was frequently transparent. My crampons bit into what appeared to be a thick pane of irregular glass, beneath it clouds and galactic tendrils of black ash and white bubbles swirled, trapped in the ice...Some bubbles were a spray of soda fizz, others were large, lonely balloons...There were contorted blue and green swaths, painters’ brushstrokes, some long and lazy, others mere jabs. All appeared to writhe if I was moving, but when I stopped and sat like a child to examine them, they were motionless in the ice. Even here, the glacier was hundreds of feet thick, and I couldn’t tell how far down I was seeing. Irregular drapes of aqua-colored ice seemed to be sandwiched between masses of something that was nearly transparent, but still caught some of the starlight and redistributed it in random waves and flourishes. When melt water flowed half an inch thick across the ice, the strange spectacle rippled and squirmed. It was a surreal painting, drunk at having discovered motion.

The effects were hypnotic. Already the ice was enchanting me, molding my actions. It had already brought me to my knees in wonder. And now, if I tilted my head a little, or scanned slowly from left to right, the leaps and oozes of the deep ice-light swirls were a spell indeed. I swayed gently, like a snake before the flute, to keep the lights in motion. It was easy to imagine that some Icelandic sorcerer of old had set a cold fire into the ice to trap lonely wanderers. It took an effort to get up and keep moving."

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Mars Exploration Invention

In press for publication in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society (world's oldest organization dedicated to space flight and space exploration), an invention worked out by me and fellow explorer Louis Philippe-Loncke: a 'Mars-Cart' to facilitate exploration of the surface of Mars, independent of mechanized ATV's (all terrain vehicles); there will be many reasons to use ATV's, but also many to explore without them. Just working on correcting proofs this weekend, will be off to the printer 17 December! A few photos from the article, which I first worked out in 2008, applying what I'd learned in Iceland to the concept of Mars exploration.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

New Pressure Suit!

Our Mark V 'Zaphod' suit tested today by me, Ben Wilson (in suit) and new crew member Mathew Lippincott, a professional scientific balloon builder. Complicated proceedings, but we had great C02 numbers, well within all safety margins!

Friday, December 4, 2015

An Adaptive Paradigm for Human Space Settlement

Off to the printer at Acta Aatronautica, the technical journal of the International Academy of Astronautics! This article (link) derives from research 2009-present and will be included in expanded in my forthcoming technical book, Principles of Space Anthropology: An Evolutionary Framework for Human Space Settlement.

Abstract: "Because permanent space settlement will be multigenerational it will have to be viable on ecological timescales so far unfamiliar to those planning space exploration. Long-term viability will require evolutionary and adaptive planning. Adaptations in the natural world provide many lessons for such planning, but implementing these lessons will require a new, evolutionary paradigm for envisioning and carrying out Earth-independent space settlement. I describe some of these adaptive lessons and propose some cognitive shifts required to implement them in a genuinely evolutionary approach to human space settlement."

Summary / Conclusions: "The cognitive shifts noted above would largely place humans and evolution at the center of human space settlement, moving away from technocracy and towards a paradigm of space settlement based on the evolutionary and adaptive principles that have served for long-term success in many forms of Earth life. Implementing these shifts in core concepts requires attention to the way we communicate about space exploration and settlement, and inclusion of these concepts in space-education materials. Implementing these shifts on the policy level will take time as students educated in this atmosphere themselves become the policy-makers. I am happy to see that some are already underway, and I will continue to familiarize space planners with evolutionary principles as my own contribution to the larger goal of the Extraterrestrial Adaptation.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Hordur of Hofelsdalur

From my book-in-progress about my Iceland expeditions 2000-2004!

"Hypothermic and dehydrated, I knocked on the door of a windswept cabin at the bottom of the Hoffel Valley. It was opened by a stout Icelander, Hordur of Hoffel, who welcomed me into his warm home, miles from any village. Though the calendar read AD 2000, Hordur's way of life -- shepherding sheep and extracting hardy crops from near permafrost -- made his life materially little different from that of the earliest Icelanders, a thousand years before. The calendar might have read AD 1000."

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dry Test

Today's test was 'dry', nobody in the suit; identified a small problem, which I'll fix this week for an upcoming 'wet' test, meaning someone in the suit!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Going Up!

Last weekend was spent meeting a balloon inspector in central Oregon, and then checking out various possible flying terrains in sparsely-settled regions of Eastern Washington state. Frigid cold and wide-open landscapes! Photo with Pacific Spaceflight team member Michael Rudis, who is also seen learning the use of a hand-bearing compass (on a small municipal airstrip). Slowly but surely advancing towards flight! We named one possible flying site 'Area 52'.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Iceland Book Illustrations

Slowly but surely, I am editing the book on my Iceland expeditions, and illustrating it. I'm using a white-pencil-on-black-paper technique, which I think effectively communicates the dramatic conditions of the expedition, which, during winter, was mostly carried out in darkness. Here, a fumarole on the ice cap sends up a cloud of steam, some of which freezes into ice crystals that seemed to rain down through the blackness! The hours spent making such a drawing allow me to revisit my time on that great expedition!

Saturday, November 7, 2015


Tonight I refurbished the old suited person monitor; monitors person in trainer capsule (on left, under spaghetti pile of hoses) with two video feeds, for C02 (new, sensitive gauge donated recently by a local company!), blood oxygenation, pulse, breathing gas tank pressure, suit pressure, various gas flows, various times (with three digital timers), intercom phone & a few others. Very much improved and running 3 laptops, having gone more digital this last year over analog gauges etc. The flying machine will be more analog than digital but for various reasons the laptops are good for testing. Progress!

Monday, November 2, 2015


"In exploration, safety is not the most important thing. In exploration the most important thing is to actually go."

-- Wayne Hale, former Space Shuttle Program Manager & Flight Director for 40 NASA missions over 32 years.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Off to the Printer -- An Adaptive Paradigm for Human Space Settlement

Off to the printer! Since reading "Interstellar Migration and the Human Condition", edited by U Hawaii anthropologist Ben Finney, years ago, I have been working on ideas in the realm of long-term human space settlement; not as flag-planting, or 'the conquest of nature', or an expensive luxury of bored nations, but as a responsible investment in the human future. This article now off to Acta Astronautica, where the message reaches many in the rarefied world of space policy. The point here is to begin assembling an adaptive, evolutionary framework and context for long-term human space settlement. One step at a time!

Acta Astronautica is a peer-reviewed scientific journal sponsored by the International Academy of Astronautics. Content is based on original contributions in all fields of basic, engineering, life and social space sciences and of space technology related to:

The peaceful scientific exploration of space,

Its exploitation for human welfare and progress

Conception, design, development and operation of space-borne and Earth-based systems In addition to regular issues, the journal publishes selected proceedings of the annual International Astronautical Congress (IAC), transactions of the IAA and special issues on topics of current interest, such as microgravity, space station technology, geostationary orbits, and space economics. Other subject areas include satellite technology, space transportation and communications, space energy, power and propulsion, astrodynamics, extraterrestrial intelligence and Earth observations.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Eventually, Someone Will Make It

I contributed to this article on Mars colonization for FACTOR magazine (UK, online); "THE FIRST STEPS: HOW THE PIONEERING MARS COLONISTS WILL SURVIVE".

Mars settlement is not assured, but neither was reaching the Moon, or a thousand other big achievements for our species, all of which were called 'crazy dreaming' at the start; flight itself, sequencing genomes, electrical power, radio waves...climbing Everest without supplemental oxygen...certainly all achievements and none started by entirely safe, entirely rational people with entirely safe & rational plans...we must accept some risk if we're ever to step out the front door.

I conclude the article, stating "I think there will be international human-crewed explorations in the next couple of decades. They will be like the first to the Moon or the South Pole – long, risky and expensive, with some catastrophes...But that will not stop anyone, and in fact will only increase the will to succeed. In the end, as with the invention of the aeroplane, someone will make it.” Thanks to interviewer Mark Blaney Stuart!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Historical Visitor!

Recently while working with they system, I had the front door (leading out onto 12th Ave) open, to let in light and air and to let people see inside. Among the people who passed, and saw something interesting, and came in at my invitation, was retired Boeing engineer (44 years with the company!) M. Moseley, who worked on pressure- and space-suit testing during the Gemini program (1961-1966). He had a lot of great stories and very detailed technical information that, once again (I am happy to say) verified things that I'd suspected about these suits and their testing. Since my own suits are roughly at this technological level (Gemini rather the earlier Mercury, yet not as far as the later Apollo), this was great to hear. What a day!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Balloon Flying!

Wrapping up balloon flying school, I've completed my solo flights and am endorsed to take the FAA practical test! Photos: flying 7,420 feet and climbing at 300 feet per minute (we were hunting for an Easterly wind!); looking up at burners; firing a burner; and me with my instructor, Brent, looking out over the endless crops of New Jerusalem, California. Like NASA in the 1950's and 1960's, before long we will be testing my pressure suits at high altitudes, reached by balloon!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

TEDx Portland Talk 2015

My research group, Pacific Spaceflight, and I had a great time preparing for and presenting at TEDx Portland earlier this year!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Set Altitude!

Setting altimeter before balloon launch in central California!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Balloon Flight School!

I'm being trained in hot-air balloon piloting by balloonist legend Brent Stockwell, pictured in the photo below. Working hard to get my hours logged for certification this summer, a lot depends on the winds! Also photosof working in the shop on a windy afternoon.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Talks at Second Interstellar Congress and TVIW!

I am honored to be invited recently to talk about the anthropology of space settlement at the Second Interstellar Congress at Drexel University this Fall, and the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop in March 2016.

Icarus Interstellar is an international research team working on giving humanity the option of interstellar flight by the end of this century. I have been involved with them since 2012, recently publishing a paper in Acta Astronautica about the population genetics of multigenerational interstellar voyaging. Acta Astronautica is a top, international journal of space exploration technologies, and I am happy to have my paper there as a foundation paper in the field of biological, population-level issues in interstellar voyaging.

The Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop is led by Les Johnson, Deputy Manager of Advanced Concepts at the NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. You might not know it, but the Tennessee Valley is home to much of the most advanced theoretical and practical work on the development of advanced, 'ultra-deep-space' (interstellar) technologies.

I will talk on my topics, outlined here.

As at a handful of conferences in the last few years, I will be excited to talk with people way beyond science-fiction, and building the science-fact regarding humanity's long-term future beyond the Earth. That material is being assembled at present into my next book, 'Principles of Space Anthropology' (Springer 2018).

Monday, June 29, 2015

Ground Handling -- Back in Action!

Despite a crushing writing schedule at the moment, the other day I could not stand one more moment in the office, and so I went to the park just a few blocks from where I live to take out the wing for some ground-handling. Along with balloon pilot licensing this summer, I am looking forward to a lot of paragliding!

Monday, June 22, 2015

The 'undending' tasks of this book -- the search for informative and recent reference material, the composition of the figures, and the writing of dense summary text -- is after three and a half years coming to an end! Intense work the next 10 days! Sample from the Atlas of Human Prehistory, for release later this year.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Interview at NASA/SETI Big Picture Science

My recent interview on the NASA/SETI Big Picture Science show, is up, discussing the astounding prospect of worldships for migration to distant explanets! There are also interviews with astronomers Chris Impey and Timothy Beers.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Friday, June 5, 2015

Ships of Exploration

As a stimulant to thought, I've drawn up the diagram below showing our airship (FAA#N9107Y) alongside a handful of other vehicles used in exploration in the last few centuries, drawn to scale. The visualization has already given me a few useful ideas.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

New WIRED Article -- And TEDx Portland Upcoming!

My small part of making space access cheaper is to demonstrate lower-cost and lower-weight pressure ('space') suits. The part my group, Pacific Spaceflight, plays is highlighted in a recent article at WIRED (photo credit below, Terry Manier) by local writer Julian Smith (no relation). This old suit looks comically large and baggy, we're revealing an new one at TEDx Portland on 30 May!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Space Colonization? Of Course

The better part of a generation ago, our broadest thinkers on the human future -- Clarke, Sagan and Asimov (see below)-- were all clear in their support of the necessity for human settlement of new worlds for long-term survival. A more navel-gazing period followed, cynically and unimaginatively suggesting that the idea would amount to no more than transporting old human problems elsewhere, or was simply impossible (history should demonstrate how ill-advised the term 'technically impossible' has been to date). Today we can see thousands of exoplanets and know there are millions more in our galaxy alone. Of course, someone will eventually want to go to them, and today the thinnest end of the wedge is statements of 'great fancy', like those below by Stephen Hawking:

Of course we must address problems here at home, but we should also think in the long term; that's why I work with Icarus Interstellar on cultural and genetic issues involved in long-term space settlement. A billion puzzle pieces must be assembled to make such futures real, and this is how we starting!

You can hear more at my recent talk at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics or read about these ideas in my book, Emigrating Beyond Earth.

Below, Sagan weighs in:

Arthur C. Clarke in 1950:

There is no way back into the past; the choice, as Wells once said, is the universe—or nothing. Though men and civilizations may yearn for rest, for the dream of the lotus-eaters, that is a desire that merges imperceptibly into death. The challenge of the great spaces between the worlds is a stupendous one; but if we fail to meet it, the story of our race will be drawing to its close.

...and Isaac Asimov in 1974:

Unless we are willing to settle down into a world that is our prison, we must be ready to move beyond Earth. . . . People who view industrialization as a source of the Earth's troubles, its pollution, and the desecration of its surface, can only advocate that we give it up. This is something that we can't do; we have the tiger by the tail. We have 4.5 billion people on Earth. We can't support that many unless we're industrialized and technologically advanced. So, the idea is not to get rid of industrialization but to move it somewhere else. If we can move it a few thousand miles into space, we still have it, but not on Earth. Earth can then become a world of parks, farms, and wilderness without giving up the benefits of industrialization.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Coolant Garment Sketch

Detail and fuller view of our Mark I coolant garment; Mark II has been built, but not yet sketched. Also, X-4ray view of Mark I coolant garment under Mark I pressure garment, shows how things start to get complicated, and there is a lot to think about, once 'layers' are being stacked up!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Profile Story at Intel IQ, and Furious Work Pace for 30 May New Suit Unveil

Working quickly, but with care, to reveal a functional draft of our new suit concepts at TEDx Portland on 30 May! I have mastered the sewing machine at long last and am using a combination of machine and hand seaming.

Click here for a link to a profile story at Intel -- another story soon in WIRED-UK.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Underwater Tour of HMS Erebus

WOW! Tour by Parks Canada aquatic archaeologists of Sir Franklin's HMS Erebus, crushed by ice in the Northwest Passage about 1845.

Monday, April 13, 2015

New Pressure Garment Sketches

I've produced the following sketches of the Mark I, II and III suits built and operated so far: we'e already onto Mark IV, and V will follow rapidly. These sketches don't show the various under- and over-garments, e.g. coolant layer, communications & biomedical monitor cap, and protective flight coverall with parachute and so on, but those will come later.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Good Progress 2009-2015!

Can't believe I (well, with Angela's help) started with a build in late 2009 (video below)!

By 2012 the suit was well advanced, addressing visor defog, proper breathing regulators, attempts at C02 management and a draft coolant system, as seen below:

Now (2015 early) I've assembled a team and work continues apace--there are few nights when I don't put in a few hours after work (pic below) with two suits to reveal at TedX Portland on 30 May, and test flights late this year in our new balloon! More on that later; my more frequent updates are here.