Dr. Cameron Smith is building functioning spacesuits for the cost of a Balenciaga hoodie.

World

11.2.2018

“Colonizing Mars Will Be Worth it For The Art Alone.”

Fashion and space are forever intertwined thanks to the development of the spacesuit during the Cold War, as the United States and Soviet Union raced to the moon. The impact and influence of Christian Dior’s “New Look” on the prototyping of a spacesuit for NASA’s moon missions cannot be understated. If there is anyone who is bringing the same level of creativity and innovation to either industry now, its Dr. Cameron Smith.

Having grown up during the space race, he had developed a passion for all of its wonders from an early age. (He wrote to the moonwalkers and they all responded.) Now, when he’s not teaching as a Professor of Anthropology at Portland State University, he’s designing spacesuits. He started researching spacesuit design in 2009, and started Pacific Spaceflight in 2013. As with space travel itself, spacesuits are currently inaccessible to the general public. Dr. Smith is striving to change that.

The results are promising. Dr. Smith has hand crafted functioning suits through trial and error. Standard NASA spacesuits can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Dr. Smith has developed spacesuits for a material cost of as little as $2,000.

I travelled to Portland, Oregon, alongside Querencia Studio’s Lead Designer Kate Walz, to learn from and begin working with Dr. Smith and Pacific Spaceflight on a collaboration to be presented in Paris in the the summer of 2019.

Dr. Smith, why should we go to space?

There are a few reasons. One is for the maturation of our species, we need to grow. Children are raised at home in this small bubble of perception. We know there is universe out there, it’s just like getting on a bike as a kid and exploring the neighborhood. Staying inside is immaturity. We need to mature.

Another is the success rate of civilizations. As an archaeologist and prehistorian, I’ve studied the remains of ancient civilizations. There’s nothing inevitable but when you see that the failure rate of civilizations is 99 percent, look at them, they’re now a museum exhibit. I believe the structure of civilization is good. One way to safeguard all of that is space settlement.

You’ve consulted with some of the largest space companies in the world yet decided to take this project on with little help from anyone else besides a passionate inner circle. Why?

We have the freedom to experiment here. This project is a demystification of space activity. Part of that is allowing people to express themselves, on Earth or otherwise. I want to participate in an event of evolutionary significance. By crafting these spacesuits, and giving people the ability to do that in something they really want to wear, I’m playing my part.

Space, along with many other matters of public interest, has been politicized. Where should they turn to make a productive contribution to the advancement of space exploration?

What we’ve used in space exploration so far has been too expensive or designed for one mission. Anyone that can apply their particular interest or talent to space would be tremendously productive and artists are no exception. Sunglasses, for example. They can certainly be redesigned and improved for space travel.

Colonizing Mars will be worth it for the art alone. Imagine the art that will comeback from going there. The light is different, they’re in one third of Earth gravity. What does that do to paint? What does that do to charcoal?

Thinking towards our upcoming collaboration for this summer in Paris, one could say that the stars have aligned that the Paris Air Show and fashion weeks are happening one after another. Is this a form of fashion, a sort of first attempt at future interplanetary freedom of expression?

Yeah, space won’t be about engineers and rocket scientists forever. There will be communities and fashion will be a part of it. People have been using clothing and their visual appearance to communicate and symbolize perspective for a long time.

A few generations of people on Mars will have a hard time but they’ll sort it out and it life will become normal. The first billionaire on Mars will be the person with the best restaurant.

What do you make of your existence and purpose?

I feel extremely lucky to be in existence now, when this species is able to go out beyond this cradle. That opportunity has existed for fifty years and to be existing in that tiny segment of ability, its pretty lucky. It’s a major event when a life form is able to move from one environment to another. We’re able to participate in that. Thats huge man, when else could people have done that?

If Dr. Smith, gets his way, Mars Fashion Week could be a reality sooner than we thought.

Keep up with Dr. Cameron Smith and Pacific Spaceflight here.

Keep up with Querencia Studio here.

Featured graphic courtesy of Zoe Kidwell

Stay tuned to Milk for more from outer space.

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