Leonard David, Space.com (January 26, 2011)
"The International Space Station could get a new inflatable module supplied by the private American company Bigelow Aerospace, sources say.
"NASA is apparently in discussions with Bigelow to acquire a Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, called BEAM for short, to enhance use of the International Space Station (ISS).
"Since 1999, the North Las Vegas, Nev., company has been working to create affordable inflatable space habitats for national space agencies and corporate clients...."
"...In 2006 and 2007, the firm launched orbiting prototypes Genesis I and Genesis II.
"Using the firm's patented expandable habitats, NASA hoped to greatly exceed the usable space of the International Space Station at a fraction of the usual cost. Lately, the company has focused on ever-larger expandable modules, notably the Sundancer and BA330 modules.
"Bigelow Aerospace sits on a 50-acre plot of land, with an expansion of the company factory now under way that doubles the amount of floor space as the business begins the transition from research and development to module production.
"The BEAM module that could attach to the International Space Station is sized to be a larger version of the already-flown Genesis module...."
If the Lemming was an old-school journalist, this is where you'd start reading a hand-wringing dirge about the death of high-end tourism and the awful plight of wage slaves abandoned by somebody the editor doesn't like.
The Lemming isn't an old-school journalist.
It doesn't seem likely that the tourist industry in places like Aspen, Abu Dhabi, Mumbai, or Ushaia is going to dry up as a result of Bigelow Aerospace adding a module to the International Space Station.
Not this year, anyway.
Maybe not ever.
Columbus Didn't Kill TourismThink about it: back in good king Edward's day, Devon had innkeepers. One of Devon's public accommodations, the Pilchard Inn, has had its ups and downs - but England and other countries allowing similar establishments to be built on the other side of the Atlantic over the last half-dozen centuries hasn't killed innkeeping in Devon.
As the Lemming said the other day: "...Change can hurt. But change happens: and it's best, in the Lemming's opinion, to deal with it. Not fret...." (January 22, 2011)
ISS: Not the Only Game in TownThe ISS/Bigelow module deal may fall through: the article says nothing's been finalized yet. But one of the four dozen or so space agencies around the world is likely to decide that Bigelow Aerospace has the equipment and services they need.
Or - and this may seem like a radical idea - private companies may decide that their return on investment is higher, if they outsource to Bigelow instead of developing their own modules.
There's more to low Earth orbit living than tourism, of course. It's easier to do experiments with microgravity there; you're above this soupy nitrogen-oxygen mix we breathe, so it's easier to see the stars - and it's hard to beat the view of Earth from orbit.
Quite a few of these non-tourist ventures don't absolutely require the presence of a human being - but the Lemming thinks it's easier to monitor and fix things when you're there, instead of a hundred or so miles away.
"When it's time to build spaceships, people will built spaceships." (October 4, 2009) Looks like it's time.
- "SpaceX's Dragon: Getting Closer to Commercial Service"
(December 8, 2010)
- "Hyperbole, Business, and a Spaceship Factory"
(November 19, 2010)
- "Bigelow Aerospace, Private Space Station, International Enterprise"
(October 20, 2010)
- "Space Tourism and Virgin Galactic: Another Step"
(July 17, 2010)
- "Over Four Dozen Space Agencies (and Growing?)"
(February 28, 2010)