I’m putting two thoughts together but there are two really exciting ideas one is almost the prequel to the other.
First private space stations are taking off, literally, in approximately the year 2020 and with the intent of making money (you didn’t think it was free, did you?) off of at first the commercial companies that are heading to the Moon. ALSO is the plan of replacing the ISS with a leasing option – saves money for NASA and hence the American people AND gets more frequent upgrades…really don’t see a down side! So the new Moon visits will occur sometime after 2020, the ISS is decommissioned in 2024 or there-abouts, so 2020 is the perfect timing to get the details right!
The companies that are suggesting this are Bigelow & Axiom. Bigelow, if you recall, is currently being tested up on the ISS, providing a separate module which is being tested. So obviously these companies are for real and capable.
Bigelow’s inflated space stations not only are, well, inflatable which means they can be sent up and then deployed/inflated, but also Bigelow’s habitats (such as the BA330) offer much more protection from micrometeoroid strikes and space radiation than aluminum-walled structures. (according to Bigelow specs).
Bigelow Aerospace modules have been space tested three times – from the free-flying Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 habitats in 2006 and 2007to the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) which was attached to the ISS this past April and inflated six weeks later. The Genesis 1 or Genesis 2, while empty do remain in orbit to this day – on the ISS, though, astronauts have ventured into the BEAM now and again to download sensor data, collect air samples and install equipment.
As previously stated, there is another company, Axiom. Axiom intends to use a more traditional method, a rigid habitat. If you are wondering who Axiom is, the company was co-founded by Mike Suffredini, a former NASA ISS manager and aims to launch a module in October 2020, probably aboard a SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket.
BUT it isn’t all NASA and commercial space-drilling companies. Down the road a piece, Jane & John Doe may want to book a stay at the hotel Bigelow or perhaps even lease for a more permanent stay.
BUT WHY? You may ask. We have just about everything we need (I say just about as I think of course about the problems with the air that we breathe). Certainly we’d have to import everything and the cost…It wasn’t that long ago we suspected China had already done this. Part of the reason surely breaks down to that familiar old, cause we can sort. While a part of me can see a future with cities at the poles and under the ocean and in Earth’s orbit, another cries out that the politics of the day could not allow it for varying reasons. But still, would a nice vacation resort be cool. That I can see even with the state of World Politics. As a matter of fact, I’d like to make a reservation!
BUT there is one place we may find that necessary. Think of when we have started to colonize Titan and the other moons of Saturn. Saturn is an extremely rich system, and this includes Saturn. BUT on Saturn perhaps we might like to have a floating city or outpost. I wish I could live long enough to see it, but I do expect to enjoy a night in a space hotel or is it motel – never remember but know in this case a mistake could be deadly!