(Hat Tip: Space Scan)
Despite the fact that Bigelow Aerospace is already developing inflatable lunar bases (not to mention space stations), NASA seems to have caught the vision that perhaps its easier, cheaper and (hopefully) safer to inflate our lunar homes rather than haul them pre-assembled on the Moon.
(Physorg.com) “Inflatables can be used as connectors or tunnels between crew quarters and can provide radiation shelter if covered with lunar regolith (soil),” said Chris Moore, Exploration Technology Development Program program executive at NASA Headquarters.
As a starting point, ILC Dover has delivered a 12-foot (3.65 meter) diameter inflatable structure made of multilayer fabric to Langley for ground-based evaluation of emerging technologies such as flexible structural health monitoring systems, self-healing materials and radiation protective materials. Attached to the structure is a smaller inflatable structure that serves as a demonstration airlock. Both are essentially pressurized cylinders, connected by an airtight door.
Although they may look very “goofy,” inflatable space bases may prove to be more useful than their metallic and glass cousins. With the ever present danger of space rocks raining down from above, an inflatable space base may prove to be more expendable and easier to replace than the previous vision of a lunar base.
Despite being less glamorous than glass and steel, inflatable space bases may help lower the overall cost to settle human colonies off world. With cheaper access to space, we may one day find our decendents grumbling how boring it is living off world inside an inflatable habitat and wishing for the opportunity to settle back on our home planet.