Space Habitat Has Inflatable Loft

NASA has just completed a variety of tests of a prototype astronaut habitation unit in the rugged Arizona desert, which is not a bad substitute for harder-to-reach off-planet locations.


(Inflatable loft for space inhabitat )

The current prototype housing unit has a hard cylindrical shell, contains four rooms, two outside additions for dust mitigation and hygiene, and an inflatable component that adds a second level for sleeping and relaxing...

The habitation system uses embedded sensors to reduce the need for checkups by crew and ground control. "We are infusing more technologies so that crew wouldn't have to repair the unit if there were a problem. Inside the unit, the electronics can be controlled by iPads and iPhones, allowing the crew to adjust the lights and temperature...

The unit could be adapted for missions to the moon, Mars, an asteroid, or simply as a free-flying habitat in space. "Different missions require different sizes of habitation," says Tracy Gill, who works within the Space Station Utilization Division at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, because of the different items needed onboard. Within 10 years, the team plans to have a demonstration unit either flying in space or attached to the International Space Station.

Fans of the incomparable Arthur C. Clarke recall the inflatable moon habitat from his 1961 novel A Fall of Moondust:

This was one of the latest models - a Goodyear Mark XX - and it could sustain six men for an indefinite period, as long as they were supplied with power, water, food and oxygen. The igloo could provide everything else - even entertainment, for it had a built-in microlibrary of books, music and video... In space, boredom could be a killer...

Lawrence stooped slightly to enter the air lock. In some of the old models, he remembered, you practically had to go down on hands and knees. He waited for the "pressure equalized" signal, then stepped into the hemispherical main chamber.
(Read more about inflatable moon habitat)

From Technology Review (hat tip to @nyrath).

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/10/2011)

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