Can you imagine spending your vacation in a space bubble timeshare? Robert Bigelow can. He believes his new portable, expandable space-worthy living module will be the future of space exploration and tourism. Bigelow is a man with a plan and money to burn. According to a CNBC report, Bigelow has spent about $275 million of his own fortune developing inflatable living areas for use in outer space. He has even personally funded two launches into space to test his product.
The inflatable module made by Bigelow Aerospace is called the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). Bigelow employee George Zamka says that the BEAM inflates in less than five minutes to “the size of a medium travel trailer“. Bigelow’s BEAM could become the mobile home of choice among explorers wishing to vacation above the stratosphere. “Expandable systems are the spacecraft of the future” said Bigelow.
Does the idea of inflatable space rooms sound outlandish? Perhaps so, but NASA buys it, literally. A recent report from NASA explains that the space agency is going to pay $18 million to try out one of Bigelow’s expandable habitats on the International Space Station. The out-of-this-world home improvement addition will be delivered to the ISS in September. Space station astronauts will then use the BEAM attachment for two years while they test it for leaks, radiation levels and so forth.
The astronauts will have to pump up the new living room each time they want to use it, which may be quite often, if they want to take frequent breaks from the hustle and bustle of the station’s main compartments. “This could be a very nice module potentially for the crews to go hang out in. …It may become a very popular place” said Bill Gerstenmaier of NASA.
Will the BEAM stand up to the rigors of prolonged space use? Bigelow believes his invention is plenty sturdy, inflatable as it may be. “These systems are extremely reliable, the safest thing that mankind could be in today by far” said Bigelow.
Ever cavalier with his cash and confident in his product, Bigelow plans to build two even larger expandable modules to be ready for the market by 2017. At this point, there are neither customers lined up nor rockets ready that could deliver the space homes to their starry destination. Bigelow, however, is certain that both buyers and transport will materialize by then. “I think it’s an acceptable risk to create that investment, which is going to be substantial” said Bigelow.
So pack your bags for the tourist destination of a lifetime, coming your way in just a few years. Prepare to enjoy a view of Earth from above as you travel onboard a state-of-the-art space bubble!