Monday, February 12, 2007

Inflatable Habitats For Space Colonies? Authentic NASA Toys and Replicas

(Hat Tip: Lifeboat Foundation Blog)

Constructing a space colony on the Moon and Mars will not only be quite expensive, but tedious as we have to haul all of the materials and tools to another world.

But what if we could simply instead "inflate" a space habitat, similar to what Bigelow Aerospace has done with the space station? That is something two scientists are trying to figure out.

( In a recent article submitted to [3], Bolonkin and Cathcart have designed an inflatable, translucent dome that can heat its interior to comfortable temperatures using only the weak sunlight of high latitudes. While many details remain to be worked out, the essential concept is sound. To improve the energy efficiency of the structure, they propose adding multiple insulating layers, aluminum-coated shutters, and a fine electrical network to sense damage to the structure. The dome would be supported entirely by the pressure of the air inside, which can be adjusted to compensate for the added buoyancy caused by high winds.

The principle advantages of this design are the low weight and flexibility of the material. If only a few people at a time need shelter, an enclosure the size of a small house would weigh only about 65 kg, or as much as a person. This is light enough even for a space mission, and setting up would be as easy as turning on an air pump. For large colonies, enough membrane to enclose 200 hectares would weigh only 145 tons. The interior would be warm and sheltered, a safe environment for the construction of more traditional buildings and gardens.

The idea behind this is ingenious, as it would provide an inexpensive way for colonies to be established until more rigid domes could be built.

Despite the fact that space rocks raining down on the Moon as well as Mars may make living on the surface "slightly hazardous," these inflatable domes could make re-building a damaged space colony simple and affordable.

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You can either visit the stars or watch them from afar.

But if you choose the former, you'll definitely get a better view.

~Darnell Clayton, 2007

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