Yeah there’s cool underground places to live that in my opinion offer more protection – protection from meteors (especially in the case of the Moon) or more protection from space radiation or even from outside forces, dust storms, pressure or lack there-of, lack of oxygen…, there are convenient (ancient) lava tubes on both the Moon & Mars and probably most places we will dare to go. That isn’t to say that having out-buildings on the surface won’t help in some way – laboratories and such. And what sort of buildings?
Well, if I were transporting it I would want something that didn’t feel too claustrophobic BUT also didn’t add to much weight to my load so I haven’t added a need for more fuel and hence cost to my trip. Really, if you were traveling a long way would you like to bring along not only the equipment to build, but the people who know how or would you rather struggle in the low gravity or whatever the specific conditions happen to be and perhaps succeed in building your outpost on a far-away planet. HOWEVER it may spring a leak or there could be any one of 1000 problems? Tell you what, why not just grab a pre-made, inflatable (so light-ish), expandable, “activity module” provided by Bigelow.
On Friday Bigelow’s BEAM (Bigelow Expandable Activity Module) will become a reality to NASA and its testing on the ISS will begin. Its visit is a long time. Attached to the Tranquility Module for a period of two years, Bigelow (and NASA alike) are hoping it is not to simply test but to prove it already ready for space travelers both civilian (solar system colonists or perhaps tourists) and astronaut alike.
Bigelow has expressed over the years its desire to not only provide space-rest stops but also space hotels. NASA has been working on hard shell deep space stations but space stations deep in space may go periods of time unmonitored and need to last much longer – years or even decades where as these may work on the Moon or even on Mars while other accommodations are being worked out. (It will take some time to prepare the lava tubes and might be a good idea to also have something on the surface for labs, office space, or just observation of the space around.
So, on Friday a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will carry BEAM to the ISS holding it in its trunk. When at the ISS the robotic Canadian arm 2 will attach it to node three. Next the astronauts will push a buttom to start its automatic inflation. When one a room 10.6 feet by 13 feet. It will become the supply closet or junk drawer of the ISS. OK, really it will house supplies and experiments; same idea.
I could go on about how Bigelow came upon this idea or what other ideas came first and then either failed or were dropped, but honestly it doesn’t matter. Al you need to know if Bigelow is responsible for the expandable design and great things are anticipated, even expected from the BEAM module.