While the rest of the world’s focus is on how SpaceX finally managed to land a rocket back onto a floating drone recovery pad, NASA has quietly shipped the first inflatable room into space. So, people in the agency have already started thinking about life in outer space. This inflatable room is one of a series of experiments that need to be carried out if mankind ever wants to colonize Mars or any other planet or moon with a rocky core. The reusable rockets will also be very useful for that purpose as well.
While the rocket was making way for the landing barge and capturing the world’s attention, SpaceX’s dragon unmanned capsule was undergoing automated docking procedure at the International Space Station where currently five other spacecraft are already hanging around. Only two out of these total six crafts are manned in nature and therefore, have got there on their own to transport cargo. The dragon cargo ship filled with lab rats, lettuce seeds and the inflatable room was successfully docked and the cheeky crew announced on the radio “I believe we’ve caught a dragon”.
The Bigelow expandable room or BEAM as the inflatable space is called, isn’t even from NASA itself as it is the brainchild of billionaire hotel operator Robert Bigelow who in 1999, laid the foundation of Bigelow AeroSpace that immediately began to work on inflatable work-spaces. Nearly seventeen years have gone and finally, the Biegelow Aerospace has a chance to test their apparatus in space as the mission to Mars looms. Essentially, it is a 10.5 x 13 feet capsule that is designed to withstand solar, ultraviolet and cosmic radiation as well as being strong enough to avoid space debris and provide living quarters for the astronauts. In this test, BEAM will be used to measure its effectiveness in the space environment and astronauts will spend several hours at a time inside to retrieve the data inside. It will be flown back to Earth in two years time and the data will be relayed from time to time. It could well be a good solution to the accommodation problem in space.
As well as this reusable room, we also have Chinese Cabbage seeds that will be grown in space and lab mice will be used to test the effectiveness of some drugs to mitigate the effects of bone and muscle loss in micro gravity. If that is achieved astronauts might just be able to travel in space for longer periods of time. Currently they cannot as Scott Kelly’s one-year space program aboard the International space station showed us that. So, we are living in another golden era of space exploration people! And the good thing is that this time around, this isn’t about some stupid race between two superpowers but a genuine attempt at making history.