Wow, The Martian must’ve really shook NASA. To make sure no one endures the same fate that Matt Damon’s character suffered through, NASA just sent a giant inflatable room into space so their astronauts can chill out on Mars.
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, is the latest invention from NASA. Basically, it’s an inflatable bouncy castle made out of fabric that an astronaut can set up and live in with little effort. On Saturday, astronauts set up BEAM at the International Space Station (ISS) where it’ll stay for two-years as they test it out. NASA hopes that astronauts can one day use BEAM to live on Mars.
"When we’re traveling to Mars or beyond, astronauts need habitats that are both durable and easy to transport and to set up. That’s where expandable technology comes in," NASA wrote on their blog.
Built by Bigelow Aerospace, BEAM was flown to the ISS on the SpaceX Dragon, AKA the coolest name ever given to a spacecraft. It took astronauts four hours to attach the inflatable room to the station's Tranquility module… because they used a robotic arm to do it. Sigh, and I can’t even pick up a stuffed animal with one of those claw machines.
"At the end of May, the module will be expanded to nearly five times its compressed size of 7 feet in diameter by 8 feet in length to roughly 10 feet in diameter and 13 feet in length," NASA said.
Over the next two years, astronauts will chill inside BEAM for several hours at a time to make sure everything’s looking good. They’ll monitor temperature, test for radiation, and make sure any space debris doesn’t mess it up. If, say, a meteor punctured BEAM, the room is designed to slowly compress, so it doesn’t blow up the ISS. Cause that would be bad, ya know?
Oh, and the best thing about BEAM? Astronauts can easily deflate it and pack it up like a beach ball when they’re done.