We thought we’d be living in space (or under giant domes) by now
We thought we’d be living in space (or under giant domes) by now A proposed space colony designed by NASA researchers in the 1970s. (NASA Ames Research Center/Courtesy Bigelow Aerospace)
We thought we’d be living in space (or under giant domes) by now
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The International Space Station is known for a distinct lack of personal space. Crews are packed into phone booth-sized beds and assaulted by continuous light, sound and surveillance. But if things go right during a SpaceX resupply mission this spring, the station could soon be a bit roomier and more relaxing.
 

After the Dragon capsule reaches the station, the ISS's robot arm will pull out a device. It's called the Bigelow Aerospace Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, and the future of housing might just change forever.
 
The 13-foot-long module is being referred to by Bigelow Aerospace and NASA as an "expandable habitat." But to the average viewer it will look more like a big white balloon. Think of it as a kind of spare room, one that cost NASA a cool $17.8 million. BEAM will arrive uninflated, but once it's attached to one of the station's nodes it will blow up. That will create a new - if not entirely expansive - section of the ISS.
 
"I jokingly refer to it as a largish New York apartment," says Mike Gold. He is director of D.C. operations and business growth for Bigelow Aerospace. BEAM isn't intended to be used as living quarters, he notes. Rather, it will serve as a proof of concept for expandable habitats.
 
Gold sees another benefit to the module. Call it a bit of peace and quiet. "Acoustically, it's going to be the quietest location aboard the International Space Station," he says. Will astronauts use it as a respite from the always-on environment of the bigger station? Right now, it's unclear. In a release, NASA says only that the station will be measured and tested over time. But Gold thinks the module has the potential as a place for science experiments, stowage and other activities. After all, the concept has been tested before. In 2006 and 2007, the company launched the Genesis I and II missions. Expandable habitats headed into orbit via converted Russian ICBMs.
 
The limited plans for the habitat are a far cry from the "space hotel" label that has long been associated with the company. Bigelow Aerospace is owned by hotelier and real estate mogul Robert Bigelow. His plans to take his empire to space have been the source of speculation and sometimes mockery since he launched the company. That was in 1998.
 
That moniker irritates Gold. He calls it a "pernicious misconception." Gold says tourism is just a portion of the company's long-term plan. The term has been in use since the module that inspired Bigelow Aerospace's current projects. It is a NASA-designed inflatable crew quarters project. It's known as TransHab.
 
TransHab turned out to be just a pipe dream.  The project's funding was cut in 2000. It literally never left the ground. Bigelow snatched up NASA's patent rights. He used them to develop the technology.
 
If BEAM isn't a space hotel, the company's next project sure seems like one. Now that BEAM is ready to deploy, the company is perfecting the B330. It's an even larger expandable habitat. It could be used for housing, research and development. It also could be used for astronaut training.
 
Unlike BEAM, the B330, named for its 330 cubic meters of internal space, is a completely independent module.  It doesn't need to hook up to the International Space Station. And it can support a crew of up to six. B330s can even be hooked up to one another. They could form free-floating commercial stations like Alpha Station. Alpha is a proposed space station. Bigelow Aerospace claims it could help nations develop their astronaut corps, perfect space travel and conduct research.
 
On its website, the company says it will offer things like one-off astronaut flights ($26.75 million to $36.75 million per seat), leased space station space ($25 million for exclusive use of a school bus-sized space over a two-month period) and naming rights to Alpha Station ($25 million a year). Gold downplays the idea of space tourism, but doesn't discount it entirely. Perhaps it will be more lucrative, and realistic, once the company's ambitious Olympus project, named for its godly 2,100 cubic meters of space, is complete.
 
There are still challenges to be addressed. Right now, the company relies on commercial resupply missions to the space station launched by companies like SpaceX to get its smaller modules into orbit. But commercial rockets are small. Many don't have enough power to launch the 20-ton B330. Bigelow notes that it designed that unit to fly on an Atlas V rocket, a dependable vehicle that has a launch capacity of just over 40,000 pounds. To get its more ambitious habitats off the ground, Bigelow Aerospace will probably need a rocket like NASA's upcoming Space Launch System, or SLS. It will have an eventual lift capacity of 286,000 pounds.
 
Are expandable space stations (hotels or otherwise) the buildings of the future? Perhaps. Some people may ditch the idea of space tourism and become full-time space residents in structures like Bigelow's Olympus. Some may flee Earth due to overpopulation. (There's an 80 percent probability that the world's population will grow to around 11 billion by the end of this century, and there are no signs of slowing).
 
And then there's the cool factor. Some people may find that they simply prefer to live in microgravity surrounded by spectacular views of planets and stars all the time.
 
But commercial space projects are susceptible to funding issues, delays and development traffic jams, all of which could send the most optimistic predictions for the future of travel and housing tumbling back to Earth. And for every futuristic habitat success, there are scores of stalled or vastly altered projects.
 
What do you think the future of living in space will look like?

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/tween78/we-thought-wed-be-living-space-or-under-giant-domes-now/

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why does the International Space Station lack personal space?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (61)
  • kgonzal05-mar
    4/12/2016 - 09:55 a.m.

    The International Space Station lacks personal space because of how packed it is in the room. The beds are the size of a phone booth. They can make more room it just cost more money.

  • riannas-ric
    4/12/2016 - 04:21 p.m.

    The International Space Station lacks personal space. I think that the station lacks personal space because it is too small to suit the people living there. The astronauts have only a small place to sleep and are constantly under surveillance. In the story it says "Crews are packed into phone booth-sized beds and assaulted by continuous light, sound and surveillance." That is why the International Space Station lacks space.

  • joed-ric
    4/12/2016 - 07:27 p.m.

    The International Space Station lacks personal space because it would be to cost worthy to purchase another living space for astronauts in space. Also those astronauts need to be under surveillance all of the time and it would be easier to contain the light and sound from one another which is probably another reason the International Space Station lacks person space. It could also be to hard to transfer a bigger living area to space because of the transportation devices used. In the article it says ''Crews are packed into phone booth-sized beds and assaulted by continuous light, sound and surveillance.''

  • skyeh-ric
    4/12/2016 - 08:39 p.m.

    The International Space Station lacks personal space because of how expensive it would be."Think of it as a kind of spare room, one that cost NASA a cool $17.8 million.". Also because its easier to keep the astronauts under "continuous light, sound and surveillance.". Astronauts have to be kept under all these things, and smaller spaces make it a lot more simple.

  • ethanw-pro
    4/13/2016 - 11:52 a.m.

    Because its small cuz its hard to successfully get supplies up there.

  • collinf-2-bar
    4/13/2016 - 12:05 p.m.

    The International Space Station lacks personal space because larger areas of space are too heavy to launch into the space. Therefore, the station needs to be as small as possible."But commercial rockets are small. Many don't have enough power to launch the 20-ton B330."

    I found this article interesting because I am interested in space.

  • jaylaw-ric
    4/13/2016 - 12:17 p.m.

    The international space station looks like a big space with low gravity. There is a lot of gravity and space on one planet that you will never run out of room.There is low gravity and it can be very difficult staying in there. When it is low gravity sometimes it may cause death.

  • lilyc-ric
    4/13/2016 - 12:19 p.m.

    The international space station lacks personal space because they can't afford to buy more living quarters for the astronauts. They astronauts only have a small place to stay. They probably would have a hard time putting a larger living area into space.

  • emmagened-1-ric
    4/13/2016 - 12:24 p.m.

    The International Space Station lacks personal space because it would cost a lot to expand it. Also they will need to make more living space. There could be to much people in there. They would need to find a different spot to store stuff while they are expanding it.

  • afrikab-ric
    4/13/2016 - 12:25 p.m.

    The International Space Station lacks personal space because it is very expensive as it is. Imagine trying to get more space or more rooms, it would cost a lot of money and obviously they're on a low budget.It already is a lot of money to get the supplies that they need. So of course they do not have enough money to be getting more space for people.

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