Inflatable module attached to ISS could be used as hotel rooms for space tourists.
Predictions that one day traveling into space will be as routine as a trip to the beach for vacationers may be getting a little closer to reality, as astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) plan to deploy an inflatable module, that will attach to the ISS and allow extra room for experiments.
An article on TechTimes.com says the module, known as the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) will likely one day be home for visitors to Mars, but could also be used to accommodate orbital vacationers as well. The more affordable, lighter weight inflatable modules could function as space hotels for adventurous thrill seekers.
ISS astronauts plan to allow four hours on Saturday of this week to attach and begin to inflate the module, which currently measures about seven feet by eight feet, but will expand to ten by thirteen feet when fully inflated.
The astronauts don’t plan to enter the module until sometime next month, but sensors inside the room will monitor the conditions and measure radiation levels and temperature changes. The crew plan to spend several hours inside the module over the nest two years, conducting various types of experiments and inspecting the performance of the inflatable room.
Scientists believe the inflatable technology will be crucial to space exploration and long visits to other planets, since one of the problems with long-term space travel will be housing. Conventional building materials are too bulky and heavy to be carried efficiently on spacecraft, where extra weight is always problematic.
The inflatable modules can be packed away until needed, inflated for use, and deflated to carry to another destination, if necessary.
One of the major concerns with the BEAM while attached to the ISS will be contact with space debris, that could potentially puncture and deflate the module. During the time of evaluation, the airlock between the ISS and the BEAM will remain shut. The module has a safety feature that will allow for a slow controlled deflation should a rupture occur, hopefully minimizing any possible damage to the ISS.
The BEAM was carried to the ISS by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket during a re-supply mission last week.