Astronauts Enter BEAM Inflatable ISS Habitat for the First Time and Perform Tests
Like "who can bounce highest"?
After a troubled initial attempt at expansion, the NASA and Bigelow Aerospace’s BEAM expandable space habitat reached its full size last week. However, it still needs to be tested to ensure that it’s an appropriately protective home for humans in the harsh environments in outer space, and astronauts have finally made their way inside to do just that.
Eventually, BEAM will be used on missions to locations much further than the ISS, which is why its volume and weight savings over rigid space structures are so important. Equally (or perhaps more) important is that it protects astronauts from radiation, space debris, and other dangers of living in space—or on foreign planets, as BEAM’s general concept could one day be used to house humans on Mars. That’s why astronauts aren’t staying in BEAM for particularly long periods of time just yet and make sure to close the hatch behind them on the way out: They won’t be hanging out in there until they know it’s safe.
Yesterday at 4:47AM EDT, NASA astronaut Jeff Williams opened the hatch for the first time and went inside to get an air sample and download data from the module’s sensors with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka. Everything looked good inside so far, if a little chilly, but we’ll know more about how effective BEAM is once initial data is analyzed, and astronauts will place additional sensors and equipment inside the module today and tomorrow to gather even more information.
Meanwhile, astronauts probably just wish mission control would leave them in peace and let them play with their new toy already.
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