While we were grilling and camping over Memorial Day weekend, NASA was setting up its own pop-up tent on the International Space Station.
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) was supposed to deploy on Thursday of last week, but ran into some problems. The module had been in storage longer than expected, which Bigelow thinks made BEAM’s material a little stiffer than usual, and more resistant to the air that was being pumped into it.
On Saturday afternoon, NASA managed to finish setting it up. Here’s what it looked like:
When it was sent up, the module measured 7 feet long and about 7.75 feet in diameter. Now it’s about 13 feet long and 10.5 feet in diameter.
BEAM will remain attached to the station for two years to assess the structure’s ability to maintain a safe temperature and pressure, and resist radiation and micrometeoroid impacts.
If it holds up, inflatable structures might one day provide lightweight, easy-to-pack habitats for other deep space destinations–perfect for when mankind camps out on the moon or Mars.