A bedroom-sized inflatable pod has been attached to the International Space Station. The versatile expandable habitat has been designed to house astronauts during their deep space missions and become humanity’s permanent outposts on planets like Mars.
Designed by Bigelow Aerospace, in conjunction with NASA, and delivered by private space exploration company SpaceX, an innovative inflatable pod has been successfully attached to the International Space Station (ISS). As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the delivery and attachment of the pod is a multi-pronged success that’s critical for multiple parties involved.
Mission controllers at Houston, Texas, used a precision controlled robotic arm to carefully maneuver the inflatable pod and positioned it adjacent to the ‘Tranquilly’ module on the ISS. Thereafter it was docked to the module. Interestingly, though the pod will remain docked to the ISS for a period of two years, it will be off-limits to the astronauts, except for occasional visits to take measurements and swap out sensors. The inflatable pod has been sent into space to undergo a barrage of tests which will be centered on safety and endurance. Scientists will conduct tests to ensure it is safe for human habitation. It is critical to find out if the pod is able to protect its occupants from widely fluctuating temperatures, cosmic radiation and space debris, shared Julie Robinson, NASA’s chief scientist for the International Space Station said,
“The space station provides an ideal laboratory to test the BEAM expandable module in the harsh environment where it will have to operate. BEAM has many desirable features for space habitats. Attaching this expandable module to the space station offers NASA the opportunity to expose it to the radiation, temperatures, pressures and micrometeoroid environment, and measure how it holds up.”
In the unlikely event of being hit or punctured, the pod is designed to slowly leak, instead of bursting. The pod has two metal bulkheads. It has an aluminum structure that’s fortified with multiple layers of soft fabric with spacing between the individual layers to offer structural rigidity and stability. The prototype lacks windows and hence will remain dark. To take the readings, astronauts will have to use their space torches.
The inflatable space pod is important for deep space missions and even space tourism. Christened as the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), the pod is the first step towards a future where multiple habitats like these could be strung together to form large habitations or astro-hotels for tourists in deep space, reported The Telegraph.
In the near future NASA hopes the expandable habitats will serve as living quarters for astronauts who are headed to planets like Mars. The pods will not only serve as housing during the three-year journey, they could also be placed permanently on the Martian surface, effectively forming the first livable colony on Mars. Interestingly, NASA administrator Charles Bolden has already envisioned the inflatable pods could replace the ISS as the next major habitation zone in space.
The inflatable pod was delivered by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, using its Falcon 9 rocket, reported Lucena Informacion. The pod was housed in their Dragon cargo ship. Over the next few weeks, the crew aboard the ISS will expand the pod to its final size. In its current packed configuration, the pod measures nearly six feet long and just less than eight feet in diameter. But after inflation, it will be 12 feet long and 10.5 feet in diameter, which is more than enough for housing astronauts as well as setting up a laboratory.
SpaceX is particularly proud about the successful delivery and attachment of the inflatable pod to the ISS. The company’s primary boosters on the rockets managed to make a picture perfect vertical landing, making space travel a little more affordable.
[Photo by NASA via RT]