Monday, April 25, 2016

Fascinating Gravitational Biology!

A review of gravitation biology reveals to me that Earth life has been fundamentally shaped by two celestial factors; light from the sun, moon and stars, and graviation.

Fish, for example, have a 'dorsal light response' in which they will always attempt to orient their back (dorsum) to a bright light, presuming it is the sun and thus remaining 'upright' compared to the Earth's surface / sea floor. And all animals have gravity sensors that inform them of the 'down' direction, towards the Earth's center, due to the constant force of gravitation. In plants and invertebrates such sensors include 'heavy bodies', often tiny crystals termed 'statoliths', in e.g. jellyfish cells, that sag towards the Earth center and assist in maintaining attitude. In vertebrates, they include the macula, a heavy body supported by very slender tissues that bend with the slightest distrubance, sending signals to the brain, and sensilla, also hair-like receptors that deform under even slight changes in attitude in relation to Earth.

You can read more detail in Anken, R.H, and H. Rahmann, 2002. Gravitational Zoology:How Animals Use and Cope with Gravity. Pp. 315-333 in Horneck, G. and C. Baumstark-Khan (eds). 2002. Astrobiology. Springer, Berlin.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Boot Work!

Fifth build of a boot bladder for the pressure suit -- it seems simple, but keeping it simple and robust has taken several attempts. The fifth design is easy to build and proves gastight. More testing will guaranteed that it holds pressure and will be then protected in several other layers, ending with a customized boot using a carbon-fiber sole insert and a restraint layer that is both tough and flameproof. Progress!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The MarsCart: Now in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society!

Based on our experiences in the Arctic and Australia, my buddy Louis-Philippe Loncke and I designed a simple, field-maintainable cart for hauling expedition equipment during human exploration of the surface of Mars or other solar system bodies. Our article in the venerable Journal of the British Interplanetary Society is recapped in the frames below, part of a presentation I'm building on space exploration technologies from the perspective of human traverses of natural landscapes.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


I've recently read 'Galileo', a play by Bertold Brecht, for about the fifth time. Always fascinating and engaging. Here is one of my favorite lines;

"Truth is the daughter of time,
not authority."

Monday, April 18, 2016

An Unexpected Guest!

Recently while writing in my office, I heard a familiar voice I'd heard many times before, but not for almost six years! My expedition partner Chiu Liang Kuo happened to be in town. After going over some recent experiences -- mine in the pressure suits and Chiu's climbing on the legendary and terrifying Eiger -- I pressed my old buddy into helping me transport and display my balloon system at the Pearson Air Museum in Vancouver, Washington, where I regularly present on the pressure suit project. Lots of fun!

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Planet Hunters Have Been Busy!

From NASA: "The artist's concept depicts Kepler-186f, the first validated Earth-size planet to orbit a distant star in the habitable zone—a range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the planet's surface. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that Earth-size planets exist in the habitable zones of other stars and signals a significant step closer to finding a world similar to Earth.

The size of Kepler-186f is known to be less than ten percent larger than Earth, but its mass, composition and density are not known. Previous research suggests that a planet the size of Kepler-186f is likely to be rocky. Prior to this discovery, the "record holder" for the most "Earth-like" planet went to Kepler-62f, which is 40 percent larger than the size of Earth and orbits in its star's habitable zone.

Kepler-186f orbits its star once every 130 days and receives one-third the energy that Earth does from the sun, placing it near the outer edge of the habitable zone. If you could stand on the surface of Kepler-186f, the brightness of its star at high noon would appear as bright as our sun is about an hour before sunset on Earth.

Kepler-186f resides in the Kepler-186 system about 500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. The system is also home to four inner planets, seen lined up in orbit around a host star that is half the size and mass of the sun.

The artistic concept of Kepler-186f is the result of scientists and artists collaborating to imagine the appearance of these distant worlds."

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Steady Progress!

This time in 2013 I was just connecting with Copenhagen Suborbitals and working at full speed to prepare to test an early draft of my pressure suit; this time in 2014 I was contracting with SpaceX on pressure garmennts, visiting their mind-melting Hawthorne, California facilities. This time in 2015 I was rushing to prepare a pressure garment for demonstration at TEDx Portland. The project has come a long way and progress and events have been rapid-fire, so much so that I often am unable to appreciate these unique experiences. Somehow I would love to sit down and think about them -- but there's no time, which is OK at the moment. This year I'm completing my flight instruction and will start flying the Mark VI pressure suit to high altitudes, this suit being a distillation of all I have learned since the project began in 2008!

I'm also preparing for a visit to India, where I will talk on the reinvention of human space exploration technologies and visit the Indian Space Research Organization, a visit to the Google SciFoo event, a free-corm collaboration that I've been invited to attend, and the Oregon Institute of Technology's Tech Talk, in May -- all of that after next week's demonstration of our balloon equipment at the Pearson Air Museum! Some day I'll come up for a breath :)

Photo: Incredible week with Copenhagen Suborbitals, Denmark 2013. L to R, John Haslett, Peter Madsen, Kristian von Bengtson and me.

Photo: Rocket production floor at SpaceX, in Hawthorne, California:

Photo: At TEDx Brussels, December 2014 (which was followed by a talk at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics).

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Immersion Test!

Divers strapping me into a weighted seat in my brother's swimming pool to look for small leaks from my pressure suit, which would show up as bubbles streaming from the leak point. Note, no bubbles streaming from my home-built space suit = we had in this test a perfect performance of the garment!