Seven Inflatable Space Structures From Science Fiction (Updated)

It makes a lot of sense to use inflatable structures in space; it's the cheapest way to enclose a volume from the standpoint of weight (and therefore cost for delivery from Earth).

As far as I know, the first real proposal from scientists to use inflatable structures in space was from Werner Von Braun's 1952 article for Collier's for a flexible nylon wheel-like space station.


(Von Braun's inflatable space station concept)

Science fiction authors made steady contributions to this area both before and after.

Inflatable Roofed Valley (Robert Heinlein)

From Misfit, Heinlein's first published story (1939), a perfect choice to create an enclosed administrative area on a planetoid moved to a new orbit.

The Captain selected a little bowl-shaped depression in the hills, some thousand feet long and half as broad, in which to establish a permanent camp. This was to be roofed over, sealed, and an atmosphere provided...

"Is this roof going to be just fifty feet high?"

"No, it will average maybe a hundred. It bellies up in the middle from the air pressure."

"Earth normal?"

"Half Earth normal."

Airtight Tent (Raymond Z. Gallun)

From his 1951 novella Asteroid of Fear, a family tries to set up a temporary shelter on Vesta:

In another minute John Endlich and his wife were setting up an airtight tent, which, when the time came, could be inflated from compressed-air bottles. They worked somewhat awkwardly, for their instruction period had been brief, and they were green; but the job was speedily finished. The first requirement—shelter—was assured.

Inflatable Air Lock (Murray Leinster)

From his 1951 novel Space Tug

The net and the plastic sidewalls were, of course, the method by which a really large airlock was made practical. When this ship was about to take off again, pumps would not labor for hours to pump the air out. The sidewalls would inflate and closely enclose the ship's hull, and so force the air in the lock back into the ship. Then the pumps would work on the air behind the inflated walls—with nets to help them draw the wall-stuff back to let the ship go free. The lock could be used with only fifteen minutes for pumping instead of four hours.

Inflatable Lunar Resort (Philip K. Dick)

From his 1955 novel Solar Lottery:

Corpsmen, dressed in bright vacation colors, were relaxing and enjoying themselves around and in a vast tank of sparkling blue water. Above them a dome of transparent plastic kept the fresh spring-scented air in, and the bleak void of the Lunar landscape out...

Igloo Inflatable Moon Habitat (Arthur C. Clarke)

From his 1961 novel A Fall of Moondust:

...it was now no particular hardship to live in a home that would fold up into a small trunk.

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...

Inflatable Expansion Bubble (Larry Niven)

From his 1967 story Flatlander.

We were in the expansion bubble when it happened. The bubble had inflatable seats and an inflatable table and was there for exercise and killing time but it also provided a fine view; the surface was perfectly transparent.

Update 25-May-2016:

Space Bubble (Bubb) (Raymond Z. Gallun)

From his 1961 story The Planet Strappers.

"A few millimeters thick, light, perfectly flexible when deflated," Nelsen added. "Cut out and cement your bubb together in any shape you choose. Fold it up firmly, like a parachute—it makes a small package that can be carried up into orbit in a blastoff rocket with the best efficiency. There, attached flasks of breathable atmosphere fill it out in a minute. Eight pounds pressure makes it fairly solid in a vacuum. So, behold—you've got breathing and living room, inside. There's nylon cording for increased strength—as in an automobile tire—though not nearly as much. There's a silicone gum between the thin double layers, to seal possible meteor punctures. A darkening lead-salt impregnation in the otherwise transparent stellene cuts radiation entry below the danger level, and filters the glare and the hard ultra-violet out of the sunshine. So there you are, all set up."

(Thanks to @fredkiesche and @nyrath (Winchell Chung) for tips!) End Update.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/26/2012)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

NASA's Astronaut Rescue Ball
'Ball and closely-prisoned man plummeted downward..' - Doc Smith, 1934.

NASA Asks For Moon To Earth Delivery Ideas
'Authority's 3-g catapult was almost one hundred kilometers long...' - Robert Heinlein, 1966.

Rapid Automated Search For Habitable Planets Needed
'I was near enough it now to set my automatic astronomical instruments to searching it for a habitable planet.' - Edmond Hamilton, 1936.

NASA's Meteorite-Resistant Fabric Perfect For Space Armor
'The men who labored so feverishly there, were clad in heavy space armor...' - Raymond Z. Gallun, 1932.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Bat Bot Robotic Flapping-Wing Drone
'The dark birdforms dotted the mountaintops like statues of prehistoric beasts, wings outspread...'

NASA's Astronaut Rescue Ball
'Ball and closely-prisoned man plummeted downward..'

ARM Wants To Build Brain Chips
'Slivers of microsoft, angular fragments of colored silicon...'

Sky Fence - A Drone-Proof Shield Created Over Prison
'There’s still a protective field over the whole thing. It volatilizes anything that tries to get through.'

Geoengineering The Atmosphere For Climate Change
'...a uniform temperature for each degree of latitude the year round.'

Archinaut Orbiting Robotic Factory
'mass-produced only in the orbiting factories...'

Cryonic Preservation - The Last Perk You'll Ever Need
'Is there not also a law providing for voluntary suspension of animation?'

Computers Understand Humans By Watching And Modeling Them
Soon, your computer will be watching you... and judging you.

NASA Asks For Moon To Earth Delivery Ideas
'Authority's 3-g catapult was almost one hundred kilometers long...'

Musk Tunnels Wisely Restrict Drivers
Too many robots.

Robot Swarms Controlled With Augmented Reality
'You're not thinking in enough dimensions...'

MIT's C-LEARN Helps Robots Transfer Learning To Other Robots
'Talk Between Robots radio...'

Mini-Brains In A Dish
'Cultured brains on a slab.'

Rapid Automated Search For Habitable Planets Needed
'I was near enough it now to set my automatic astronomical instruments to searching it for a habitable planet.'

WatchSense Perfect For Fat-Fingered Smartwatch Owners
'Now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components...'

Digital Construction Platform Robot 3D Prints A Building
'It extrudes material like a spider.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.