TribLIVE

| USWorld

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Astronauts may bounce off walls in new habitat

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By The Associated Press
Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 10:00 p.m.
 

LAS VEGAS — NASA is partnering with a commercial space company in a bid to swap out the cumbersome “metal cans” that now serve as astronauts' homes in space for inflatable, bounce-house-like habitats that can be deployed on the cheap.

A $17.8 million test project will send an inflatable room that can be compressed for delivery into a 7-foot tube to the International Space Station, officials said Wednesday during a news conference at North Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace.

If the module proves durable during two years at the space station, it could open the door to habitats on the moon and missions to Mars, said NASA engineer Glen Miller.

The agency chose Bigelow Aerospace for the contract because it is the only company working on the inflatable technology, said NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver.

Founder and President Robert Bigelow — who made his fortune in the hotel industry before getting into the space business in 1999 — framed the gambit as an out-of-this-world real estate venture. He hopes to sell his spare-tire habitats to scientific companies and wealthy adventurers looking for space hotels.

NASA is expected to install the 13-foot, blimp-like module in a space station port by 2015. Bigelow plans to begin selling stand-alone space homes the next year.

The new technology provides three times as much room as the existing aluminum models and also is easier and cheaper to build, Miller said.

Artist renderings of the module resemble a tinfoil clown nose grafted onto the main station. It is hardly big enough to be called a room. Miller described it as a large closet with padded white walls and gear and gizmos strung from two central beams.

Garver said on Wednesday that sending a small inflatable tube into space will be dramatically cheaper than launching a full-sized module.

“Let's face it; the most expensive aspect of taking things in space is the launch,” she said. “So the magnitude of importance of this for NASA really can't be overstated.”

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Nation

  1. Food industry players fighting proposed dietary guidelines drop millions on lobbyists
  2. 2 women advance to final phase of Army Ranger training
  3. U.S., Hong Kong researchers develop computer model to examine spread of influenza
  4. Pressure mounts for Biden to join 2016 White House race
  5. Construction of giant bridges sparks curiosity, high demand for public tours
  6. 4 dead, 65 sickened in Bronx by Legionella
  7. State Department accuses top Clinton aide of violations
  8. ‘Fast, Furious’ pistol was sold to gunman in foiled Texas terrorist attack
  9. Marines finally ready to roll out controversial fighter jet
  10. Obama’s nuclear deal lobbying sways Democrats
  11. Name of cop withheld in shooting of motorist in South Carolina