ReutersOctober 18, 2019 at 9:30:30 AM
When astronauts orbit the moon or live on the surface for the next decade, they are likely to do so within inflatable space stores now under development. Dozens of NASA employees and veteran astronauts are completing a review of five space habitat models built by different companies. The models offer US space agencies ideas for an ideal Gateway – the planned lunar orbit research outpost that will house and transfer astronauts to the moon's surface.
"The goal is to define what we like and dislike about these different habitats," said NASA astronaut Mike Gernhardt, lead researcher for the testing campaign. Reuters.
He and his team were recently making a final inspection in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the headquarters of Bigelow Aerospace, a space habitat company founded by hotel billionaire Robert Bigelow.
US Vice President Mike Pence in March told NASA to land its first astronaut crew on the moon by 2024. This accelerated timeline spawned the space agency's Artemis program, which requires privately built lunar landings, robotic robots and the Lunar Gateway – a modular space station orbiting the moon, with astronaut housing, a science lab and spaceship visiting ports. "Gateway is an opportunity to test all of these structures in a deep space environment … as a prelude to going to Mars," said Bigelow reporters. "We believe that for the rest of this century, expandable architecture is where it is."
Bigelow's B330 habitat, launched from Earth rocketed into a rocket, is made of a fabric-like material designed to protect inhabitants from deep space radiation and high-speed space debris. Once docked alongside other Gateway modules in lunar orbit, the habitat unfolds into a 55-foot-long, two-story outpost where up to six astronauts could remain.
The lunar space habitat and colonization program are expected to cost more than $ 1 billion by 2028.
Bathrooms, beds and windows
Four other companies are making models: Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and Lockheed Martin.
Each of the companies received a portion of NASA's $ 65 million in 2017 to develop the prototypes. The space agency's proposed funding for 2020 includes $ 500 million to begin development of an initial version of Gateway. Companies are giving NASA ideas – such as where to place astronaut bathrooms, how large the beds should be, and how many windows the station should have. They will inform a plan that NASA should launch in the coming months.
NASA wants habitats to include exercise equipment, a small kitchen, noise-canceling sleep stations that also block light, and “a reliable, easy-to-use bathroom that is in a location that minimizes the potential for scientific cross contamination. and meal. preparation activities, ”said Gernhardt Reuters.
Gernhardt and two other astronauts spent three days living in each prototype habitat.
For its Gateway habitat mockup, Lockheed Martin is outfitting beds, tables and windows in a 15-foot-wide, approximately 22-foot-long stainless steel frame originally designed as a shipping container for shipping supplies. to the International Space Station.
"The space you are living in must be reconfigurable for the task at hand," Lockheed's habitat program manager Bill Pratt told Reuters. "Like a trailer, your desk becomes the bed you sleep at night."
Bigelow said his B330 habitat has two bathrooms for a team of up to six people, and that entertainment in the form of Earth virtual reality simulations for astronauts to feel at home is being prepared for future habitats that will revolve around Mars.
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