To travel into space you have to either be a trained astronaut, or very, very rich. But in volume 17 we spoke to Cameron Smith: an anthropologist who reckons there’s another way, and is building a space suit in his apartment to prove it.
The Portland-based DIY-er has been fascinated with space travel ever since he was a child, but was denied a career as an astronaut due to his poor eyesight. Not one to let something as trivial as a NASA medical requirement get in his way, Smith began researching what it would physically take to send someone into space using only off-the-shelf equipment, and was surprised to find that the answer was 'not much'. (Provided you count hundreds of hours of personal labour and about $5000 as not much.)
He is currently putting the finishing touches on his self-made space suit, which should, if he’s done the calculations right, be sturdy enough to keep him alive when he finally reaches the so-called edge of space, roughly 19 kilometres above sea level. How does he plan to get there? Hot air balloon, apparently. (Though whether that’s possible remains to be seen – Smith freely admits that it will require some legal wrangling, at the very least.)
Smith might just be the bravest – or most foolhardy – DIY-er we’ve ever spoken to. But the way he sees it, the project is about more than just daredevil stunts: it's about ensuring the survival of the human race – something he doesn't want to leave to the government or wealthy corporations.
“Spreading humanity and human consciousness is a responsibility, not a luxury,” he says. We’re just glad knowing that when Smith finally makes that leap into the unknown, he’ll be dressed well for it.
Photographer: Holly Andres