Is the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) the future of outer space habitation? Bigelow Aerospace hopes to demonstrate that it is with the launch of BEAM on the next launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, reports Space.com.
“This will give us the opportunity to demonstrate expandable-habitat technology as part of a crewed system for the very first time,” said Michael Gold, director of Washington, D.C., operations and business growth for Bigelow Aerospace. “This will be a very big step.”
The inflatable habitat is launched in a tightly packed configuration, taking up less room in a rocket than traditional metal habitats. When expanded, they offer much more living space when they reach their destinations. They also offer greater protection against space radiation and debris strikes than metal modules do, Bigelow contends.
The idea of inflatable habitats has been around for more than 50 years but the earliest model, made of rubber, would have been destroyed by any meteoroid or piece of space junk. The concept had to be shelved until materials science advanced to the point where Kevlar-like weaves were strong enough to withstand the space environment. more “Bigelow Touts Benefits of Inflatable Habitats”
SpaceVR, a San Francisco, Calif.-based virtual reality company, wants to bring solar-system exploration to Earth by using modified GroPro cameras to capture and convey immersive, 3D views from the Space Station. In time, the startup hopes to capture the entire astronaut experience, reports Space.com, from training to launch to spacewalks.Ultimately, the aspiration is to put VR cameras aboard missions to the Moon, asteroids, Mars, and Jupiter.
“We want to take space exploration where it was meant to go — the whole planet experiencing it together,” said SpaceVR co-founder and chief technical officer Isaac De Souza. “When people take their first steps on Mars, there should be a SpaceVR camera there to watch.”
As of Aug. 17, 2015, the company’s crowdfunding effort had raised about $38,000 out of $500,000 needed to put cameras on the space station and cover the first year of operations.
The Moon’s thin atmosphere contains neon, NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft has confirmed.
“The presence of neon in the exosphere of the moon has been a subject of speculation since the Apollo missions, but no credible detections were made,” said Mehdi Benna of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in a NASA press release. “We were very pleased to not only finally confirm its presence, but to show that it is relatively abundant.”
Because the Moon’s atmosphere is so tenuous, about 100 trillion times less dense than Earth’s atmosphere are sea level, the volume of neon is minute.
Most of the gases in the exosphere — primarily neon, argon, and helium — comes from the solar win, a stream of electrically conducting gas blown from the surface of the sun into space at about one million miles per hour. All of these elements impact the Moon, but only helium, neon and argon are volatile enough to return to space. A portion of the helium, argon, and neon in the lunar exosphere comes from naturally occurring radioactive potassium-40, thorium, and uranium found naturally in lunar rocks. more “Neon Found in Lunar Atmosphere”
Landing humans back on the Moon could cost only $10 billion, one-tenth the cost of previous estimates of $100 billion, according to a study released by the National Space Society and the Space Frontier Foundation, two nonprofits that advocate building human settlements beyond earth.
“A factor of ten reduction in cost changes everything,” said Mark Hopkins, executive committee chair of the National Space Society, in a press release.
The 2014 Human Spaceflight Report cites two source of cost reductions: the forging of private and international partnerships, and the ability to mine fuel on the Moon. The report envisions setting up a lunar industrial base that mines water from the lunar regolith, reports Popular Mechanics, and then sends the hydrogen into orbit around the Moon where Mars-bounds spacecraft can refuel. The industrial base would house four astronauts. Within 12 years, it would provide 200 megatons of propellant at a cost of $40 billion.
Property rights are essential in order to establish a space industry operating beyond Low Earth Orbit, says Robert Bigelow, president of Bigelow Aerospace, and he’s seeking clarification from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Space Transportation (AST) on whether a Moon habitat would have a zone of operation in which other persons are prevented from entering.
In December, Bigelow asked AST to confirm that no future AST license would interfere with the operations of a Bigelow habitat, Director of D.C. Operations Mike Gold told NASA Spaceflight.
The International Space Station has a zone of operation, extending extends 200 kilometers from the station, that keeps out all manned or “mannable” objects. According to Gold, a zone of operation on the Moon would be organic, varying in size depending upon the circumstances. It would be small for a robotic payload and larger for a human payload such as a habitat.
Defining property rights is critical to developing the Moon, says Bigelow.
“(It is) nearly impossible at this time to identify exactly what activities will sustain commercial industry on the Moon, mining of resources such as Helium-3, mining rare earth elements, or leveraging fields of solar arrays for power generation are all possibilities.
Bigelow notes that regardless of whether these ideas come to fruition or not, the granting of property rights could lead to substantial non-governmental funds being invested in space on the basis of the potential that exists for future development.
“People talk about harvesting an asteroid, well, the Moon has been bombarded for billions of years by asteroids especially, the back side of the Moon. So there is probably no material that an asteroid has ever contained that isn’t somewhere on the Moon.”
Property rights are essential to establishing a space industry in Low Earth Orbit, argues Robert Bigelow, founder and president of Bigelow Aerospace. And in an effort to advance the discussion on property rights, he is seeking clarification from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) on whether launching a Moon habitat allows a venture to have a zone of operation which others are prohibited from entering.
Specifically, Bigelow asked the AST to create a zone of operation in which other U.S. entities could not enter, writes NASA Spaceflight.com. The zone of operation would be organic in the sense that it would increase or decrease in size depending upon circumstances. A habitat without a crew would have a smaller zone than one that is inhabited.
Mike Gold, director of D.C. operations at Bigelow, said that such a zone would be consistent with United States obligations under Article IX of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which requires states to ensure that their nationals’ activities and experiments do not interfere with the peaceful exploration and use of outer space by others.more “Bigelow Seeks Clarification of Lunar Property Rights”