Science

Low-Cost Spacesuit: Making Space Exploration Accessible to Everyone

By Hanna S. , Aug 26, 2020 11:22 PM EDT
(Photo : Great Big Story on YouTube)

Cameron Smith's childhood dream was to be an astronaut. He didn't grow up to be one, still, he didn't give up his dream of being in space. Even if that meant building his own low-cost spacesuit.

Fulfilling a childhood dream

Cameron made the headlines in 2018 for building a DIY spacesuit hopefully to test it at 63,000 feet; this zone is known as the Armstrong Line. From this altitude, you need to wear a protective suit or your body fluids will literally boil. It took Cameron eight long years to build the spacesuit that will make his lifelong dream a reality.

Cameron Smith is a professor of archaeology at Portland State University. When Cameron was a young boy, he would repeatedly watch footage of the moon landing. The scenes fascinated him so much that it would inspire him to explore the space on day. 

He would even write letters to the Appollo astronauts to ask how he could join a space mission. Sadly, he didn't have the perfect eyesight for it. Still, somehow he thought he could one day go to space; if only he would be more resourceful and a little smarter. Thus, for almost a decade, he would tirelessly build his low-cost, functioning spacesuit. 

Space exploration for everyone

Through his project, Cameron aims to prove that space exploration can be made accessible to everyone. Space does not belong to the military-industrial complex, he told Medium. Space belongs to humanity and anyone who wants to go there. It frustrates him, he said, that to explore the universe, people are left with no choice but through the existing systems. That is enough reason to try building a low-cost spacesuit.

History served as his starting point in building the spacesuit, particularly those that were built in the 1930s. He learned that they flew 50,000 and 60,000 feet and most of them survived. "If they could do that with pigskin, leather, and rubber, then I can use today's materials and do the same thing."

To prove the design, he would use the cheapest material he could use including pie tin, common plumbing ball valves, aquarium pumps, and motorcycle batteries. Thus, why not make an already made suit and save him the hassle? Well, that will take away the fun, he said. "I wanted to reinvent the wheel myself," he told Great Big Story.

As expected, building the spacesuit on his own did not come easy. Over the course of eight years he will see himself fail and rebuild the spacesuit over and over. However, through it all, he never let each failure beat him.

A spacesuit protects astronauts from very extremely hot and cold temperatures. It provides the needed air pressure to keep the body fluids from boiling. A spacesuit is built to be flame-proof and withstand being pressurized. A NASA spacesuit would cost around $70,000; his DIY project cost roughly $30,000.

On September 2, 2018, Cameron Smith managed to test the spacesuit at 5,000 feet, but ultimately, he would want to take it at 63,000 feet one day. Cameron Smith was recently featured in the Good News Network.

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