Some years ago, flying at 39,000 feet over the scar-scape of Nevada, I realized that humanity had been walking the surface of the Earth for the last four million years, but had only in the last century been venturing into the stratosphere; here was a new realm to explore! As ever, it is likely that we will find it packed with complexity and life, that it is no waste or sterile void.
To explore this new vastness I did not want to tear through it in a jet but to move with the atmosphere. I began building a pressure garment and an airship with a high-altitude life-support system to explore the lower stratosphere. I discovered that I could get quite far from the surface of the Earth with my own constructions.
After a few years, WIRED magazine happened to take note of my project, and published an article on it: to my utter amazement, a few months later the guys at private space program Copenhagen Suborbitals contacted me; they were building their own spacecraft; why don't we collaborate, so that I build the space suits for their astronauts?
I agreed immediately and within seven months I was in Copenhagen meeting CS' co-founders Kristian von Bengtson and Peter Madsen. We got along well and quickly joined forces; the plan now is that I will fly a balloon to test the pressure suit at high altitudes in 2015, in advance of its being worn by Peter on the first of CS' private rocket flights.
An umbrella organizaion was needed, so I founded Pacific Spaceflight, which oversees several space-related projects.
I think that my understanding of human evolution (both biological and cultural) has equipped me well to follow my interests in the human future: with Pacific Spaceflight and Copenhagen Suborbitals, I can play a small and direct part in the larger project of giving humanity an insurance policy by making space access, and eventual settlement, cheaper and easier by democratizing space access. I talk more about this in my recent book Emigrating Beyond Earth: Human Adaptation and Space Colonization.
Lately, WIRED magazine (see below) has run a short story and video on my project, as has Explorers Web, and my project is featured as a chapter in the new book, American Dreamers, alongside chapters by Arianna Huffington, Stan Lee, the Mythbusters, the Mars Society's Robert Zubrin, and many others.
KOIN TV has also done a short story that covers the project to date:
All material copyright 2000-2010 by Cameron M. Smith unless otherwise noted.
On the left: top: building my pressure suit, middle: pressure glove with restraint glove, bottom: schematic diagram of gas management system. On the right: top: building the flight performance indicator panel, middle: oral-nasal mask inside pressure helmet, bottom: working sketch.