Vision

CAAS is a new way of thinking about humans and their relationships with their habitats, transporters and their environment, an intelligent way of designing future cities, such that each city can be composed of small, spaceship like closed-loop eco-systems where most resources the city consumes, are produced locally, in-situ, leveraging the power of technology to reap efficiencies through sub-systems that plug into mega grids, to share excesses, while not sacrificing self-sufficiency, or the ability to decouple from ‘the city’ in the event of a crisis. Most things these eco-systems spit out as waste gets recycled back in. This urban philosophy can lead to the design of future cities that could exemplify what Buckminster Fuller meant with “Spaceship Earth”.

CAAS believes in Earth and (Outer) Space as a single cosmic continuum. In this view of the universe, the idea of living in the challenging environment of outer space serves as a metaphor for life in modern cities – dense living in confined spaces, closed-loop systems, recycling of resources, energy efficiency and more.

Our Blue Planet photographed by Apollo 11 astronauts on their outbound journey from Earth to the Moon in July 1969. Photo courtesy NASA

Manifesto

“We see the spaceship, and a space habitat as completely analogous to the modern, densely packed, technology driven hyper-metros of tomorrow and ideas and technologies for space that can immediately impact the development of these cities. In return, we see these living, thriving, survival-challenging uber-cities as collections of self-contained, super-redundant microcosms that prove themselves to be reliable, and hardy over time to be directly translatable to the space colonies of the future.

We think of a wonderful, and yet obvious symbiosis - tomorrow’s space ideas shape today’s cities, and investment in today’s cities serves as the vehicle and test bed to both subsidize and implement tomorrow’s space endeavors. “The earth as a spaceship,” is not merely a metaphor – it is a tangible, viable way for the future survival of mankind. We want CAAS to be a metaphorical movement in urban planning, a new way of thinking about humans and their relationships with their habitats, transporters and their environment, an intelligent way of designing future cities, such that each city too be composed of small, spaceship like closed-loop eco-systems where most resources the city consumes, are produced locally, in-situ, leveraging the power of technology to reap efficiencies through sub-systems that plug into mega grids, to share excesses, while not sacrificing self-sufficiency, or the ability to decouple from ‘the city’ in the event of a crisis. Most things these eco-systems spit out as waste gets recycled back in. This urban philosophy can lead to the design of future cities that could exemplify what Buckminster Fuller meant with “Spaceship Earth”.

We could find many different strategies - on one hand these eco-systems could be completely independent systems with even dedicated food supply. On the other, they could have strategic interconnections with the inevitable trade-offs. Within a framework of completely self-sufficient eco-systems, there will be certain costs imposed by redundancies, and the lack of scale, minimized somewhat by technology and through the accomplishment of grid-based scale economies as discussed above. The benefits are those afforded by complete modularity. Resources would never collapse completely. The variety in technologies and eco-systems would play into security where one mode of attack, or failure, couldn’t compromise everything, or affect too large a part of the city. Interestingly, some very popular recent practices such as organic farming would work rather well for such systems because they rely on diversity and variety for their success. In the model of selective interlinking, one would sacrifice the benefits of complete closed loops in favor of some scale economies.

The implications for what we seek to address may be very significant, and urgent, especially in the present day context when global climate change is staring us in the face, the western industrialized nations are re-thinking the results of several decades of thoughtless depredation of the earth. Two of the most populous nations on the face of the planet - India and China - are urbanizing at a monstrous pace, and doing it in much the same way as the industrialized world did in the preceding decades. These parts of the world need new answers if we are to stand a chance to keep the world habitable, and sustainable.”

Terrasphere
Archival pigment print, 44x48 inches, 2015 Image credit Rohini Devasher, courtesy Project 88, Mumbai.

The Collective

CAAS arose in 2007 as a manifesto written by Susmita Mohanty and Siddharth Das and made its public debut in ‘Volume’ in 2010 as an essay titled “Mumbai as a Spaceship”. In 2012, Barbara Imhof joined CAAS and translated the CAAS concept into “Spaceship City” for the European Space Agency [ESA]. Soon after, Sue Fairburn joined and CAAS became a zone of confluence for the three creative frontierswomen.

Since its conception in 2007 in San Francisco, CAAS has manifested itself in the form of a traveling lab and has popped-up around the world - Amsterdam, Mumbai, Cologne, Liechtenstein, Paris, Vienna, Ahmedabad, Como, Toronto, and New Delhi, thus far - in different avatars – as essays, lectures, technical papers, workshops, design studios, residencies, art installations and exhibitions.

Susmita, Barbara and Sue have episodically come together over the last 15 years to explore notions of habitability and to generate creative modes of engagement for sharing their perspectives with others. Individually, their backgrounds all depart from Earth – Space Architecture + Habitability Design, Environmental Physiology + Design for Extreme Environments, Spaceship Design + Aerospace Entrepreneurship.

Collectively, their efforts have informed a new genre of (aero)space architecture that takes a multidisciplinary approach to designing future systems. Their outputs include a book [Transcripts of an Architectural Journey], feasibility studies, articles, public lectures, installations, and more. Supporters of their work have included European Space Agency [ESA], the Austrian Chancellery of Art, and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics [AIAA].

The CAAS Collective converges in different locales to exchange ideas, trigger discussions, meet up with other thinkers-doers, immerse themselves in local realities and absorb local wisdom. While doing so, it expands its knowledge base, challenges its relevance and responds by positioning its growing repository of knowledge and analyses. As architects and designers, the Collective uses critical and systems thinking skills to apply the philosophy that CAAS represents. It plays the role of a catalyst to sharpen and refresh individual and collective perspectives.

Susmita ‘Suz’ Mohanty, PhD

Susmita Mohanty is a spaceship designer and the only space entrepreneur in the world to have started companies on 3 different continents. She is the CEO of EARTH2ORBIT, India’s first private start-up that played a pivotal role in opening up the US launch market for India. She has co-founded two other companies, MOONFRONT in San Francisco in 2001 and LIQUIFER in Vienna in 2004. Prior to turning entrepreneur, she worked for the Space Station Program at Boeing in California and did a short stint at NASA. Educated in India, France, and Sweden, Susmita holds multiple degrees including a PhD. She seamlessly straddles the worlds of technology, business, design, architecture, and art. An ardent traveler and explorer, she is probably the only person in the world to have visited the Arctic and Antarctica, on invitation. She hopes that someday, she can take long sorties on the Moon, even sit back, relax and watch the Earth float by. Detailed bio

Barbara ‘Barb’ Imhof, PhD

Barbara Imhof is a Vienna-based internationally renowned space architect, design researcher and educator. Her projects deal with spaceflight parameters such as with living with limited resources, minimal and transformable spaces, resource-conserving systems; all aspects imperative to sustainability. She is the co-founder and co-managing director of LIQUIFER Systems Group (LSG), an interdisciplinary team comprising engineers, architects, designers and scientists. Her ongoing engagements include design of the international habitat module for ‘Gateway’, the lunar orbital platform being developed by the International Space Station (ISS) Partners. At LSG, she led a 3d printing project ‘RegoLight’ to research how to build 3d printed lunar habitats using solar sintering and lava casting of simulated lunar soil.  Since early 2000s, Barbara has played a pivotal role in projects involving biomimetic designs and integration of biological systems in architecture; projects include: Living Architecture (LIAR), and Growing As Building (GrAB). She has also been teaching at renowned institutes worldwide, for over 20 years. Educated in Vienna, London, and Los Angeles, Barbara holds multiple degrees including a PhD. Detailed bio

Susan ‘Sue’ Fairburn, MSc MeDes, FRSA

Sue Fairburn is a Design Educator and Researcher who works between the body and its' environment, from materials to objects. Her experience, gained over 20+ years, uses design as knowledge exchange applied to Social Design, Design for the Body and Design for Extremes. She co-founded Design for Development [DFD 2005-2012], which used the design process as a problem solving and engagement tool in unfamiliar settings. She is currently CEO of Fibre Design Inc. Educated in Canada in Environmental Physiology and Environmental Design, Sue holds multiple degrees. Detailed bio

Why us?

We are curious, restless, thoughtful designers and engineers, makers and growers. We have the skill set and tool set to think, formulate, implement and promote the philosophy that CAAS represents.

We see the space world exists in isolation. We don’t see why one should draw a line between Earth and Space. The commonalities and crossovers between terrestrial and extra-terrestrial living are so obvious to us that we cannot stand back and let that pass by. We feel both responsible and inspired to integrate and share. We are manifestations of past generations and embodiments of future generations.

We are the children of Apollo and the space race. And the children of early awareness of competing ideologies of exploration, industrial achievement and environmental crises.

We arrived on this planet when the environmental and peace movements and social experiments were at their prime. We are now at a stage in our lives where we have seen the dismantling of our ancestral homes and we choose to use our knowledge and experience and connections to inform and nurture future conceptualizations of how to live and thrive without damaging the planet we are on now, or in the future.