This Inflatable Astronaut Lounge May Be Key to Living on Other Planets
Bigelow Aerospace is ready to send an inflatable test chamber to dock with the ISS, and it may be the key to human colonization of extraterrestrial planets.
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), the product of a $17.8 million NASA contract, is essentially an inflatable space raft. If it looks small in the above picture, that's because in its deflated state, it's small enough to be carried by rockets that are currently in existence. Then, when it's ready to be inflated, it expands to 110 square meters in four-and-a-half minutes.
After yesterday's unveiling, the BEAM is set to go to space. It is scheduled to be shipped to the Kennedy Space Center and taken aboard a SpaceX rocket in September, at which time it will blast off to the ISS. Once it docks with the station, it will expand to become a test center/astronaut lounge.
These habitats have many applications on Earth as well, as it enables humans to live in harsh, prohibitive environments. But, as CEO Robert Bigelow told Popular Science, he, and by extension the company, has been "singularly focused on the space location."
Bigelow and his colleagues are convinced that similar technology could provide habitats for us to live on another planet, like, say, Mars or the Moon. If the initial test is successful, then there are plans to create an inflatable lunar habitat that would be bigger than the ISS itself.
"Two and a half years ago, they were laughing at us. Not anymore," said Bigelow.