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January 17, 2013

NASA Partners with Bigelow for Inflatable Room Project

By Kayvon Ghoreshi, TMCnet Contributing Writer

At a news conference at North Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace, NASA discussed a new $17.8 million test project that will be sent to the International Space Station. The project is an inflatable room, similar to a bounce house, which can be stuffed into a 7-foot tube for delivery.

Bigelow, company founded by Robert Bigelow, was an easy choice for the project since it was the only company researching and developing inflatable technology, according to Deputy Administrator Lori Garver. The project has great implications for NASA should it be successful

"Let's face it; the most expensive aspect of taking things in space is the launch," she said. "So the magnitude of importance of this for NASA really can't be overstated."

As NASA engineer Glen Miller points out, the module could open the door to habitats on the moon and missions to Mars. However, this is assuming the prototype is durable and sustainable. He notes that the biggest challenge will be transporting the collapsed module through the sub-zero temperatures of space with the module remaining completely intact and unscathed.

He added that it could also help achieve missions that send astronauts out of orbit for more than a year, which would greatly expound the possibilities of space exploration.

"The only way to do that is to expand it out and voila you have living space for three people to go to Mars," he said. "You can get three times the volume of a metallic can, and you can go up in the same ferry."

The partnership is another step toward outsourcing for NASA, which as many of you may know, no longer is given government funding. In addition to requiring private funding, the agency has handed off rocket-building to private companies, retired all of its space shuttles in 2011, and now relies on Russian spaceships to provide transportation for American astronauts.

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Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

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