NASA commissions $17.8M "space home" tests

By: Matt McGovern Email
By: Matt McGovern Email
Space tourism is slowly becoming a reality, which begs the question: Where will people stay?

The International Space Station is fully staffed with six astronauts, and Boeing only guarantees it will hold up until 2024.

(CNN) - Space tourism is slowly becoming a reality, which begs the question: Where will people stay?

SpaceX, Boeing, Sierra Nevada and, of course, NASA: Billions of dollars are being spent to take people and cargo into space. But there’s a little problem: There’s a housing shortage.

The International Space Station is fully staffed with six astronauts, and Boeing only guarantees it will hold up until 2024.

Robert Bigelow says he has a solution. He’s building an expandable space habitat that packs down into a rocket and is then inflated with oxygen and nitrogen once in orbit.

The real estate tycoon and hotelier launched Bigelow Aerospace in 1999 and has recently been commissioned by NASA for $17.8 million for a test demonstration to add a module onto the International Space Station.

The Bigelow units are designed to be more spacious.

For example, the International Space Station’s Hermes module is about 24 feet long, 14 feet wide and weighs over 31,000 pounds. In comparison Bigelow’s B-module is about 13 feet long, 11 feet wide and weighs in at about 3,000 pounds.

The plan is to launch it and then attach it to the International Space Station for the demonstration.

Bigelow is also hard at work on another larger, independent module: the BA 330.

If successful, it would be launched and then assembled in low earth orbit, creating what could possibly be the first independently owned space station.

So first, the International Space Station. And after that? Who knows where in the galaxy inflatable habitats will be?

There are distant dreams of space commerce, tourism and hotels.

Better make your reservations early.


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