US Vice President Mike Pence in March told NASA to land its first crew of
astronauts on the moon by 2024. That accelerated timeline spawned the space
agency?s Artemis program, which calls for privately built lunar landers, robotic
rovers and Lunar Gateway ? a modular space station in orbit around the Moon with
living quarters for astronauts, a lab for science and ports for visiting
spacecraft.?Gateway is an opportunity to test all these structures in a deep
space environment? as a prelude to going to Mars,? Bigelow told reporters.
?Potentially we think that for the rest of this century, the expandable
architecture is where it?s at.?
Bigelow?s B330 habitat, launched from Earth compacted inside a rocket, is made
of a fabric-like material designed to shield inhabitants from deep-space
radiation and high-speed space debris. Once docked alongside other Gateway
modules in lunar orbit, the habitat unfurls into a two-story, 55-foot-long
(16-meter-long) outpost that up to six astronauts could stay in.
The lunar space habitat and colonization program is expected to cost over a
billion dollars through 2028.
Toilets, beds and windows
Four other companies are doing mockups: Boeing Co, Northrop Grumman, Sierra
Nevada Corporation, and Lockheed Martin.
Each of the companies received a chunk of the $65 million that NASA allotted in
2017 to develop the prototypes. The space agency?s proposed funding for 2020
includes $500 million to kickstart the development of an initial version of
Gateway. Companies are giving NASA ideas ? such as where to place astronaut
toilets, how big the beds should be and how many windows the station should
have. Those will inform a blueprint that NASA is due to release in the coming
NASA wants the habitats to include exercise equipment, a small kitchen,
noise-canceling sleep stations that also block out light and ?a reliable and
easy-to-use toilet that?s in a location that minimizes the potential for
cross-contamination with science and meal preparation activities,? Gernhardt
Gernhardt and two other astronauts spent three days living in each prototype
The Bigelow?s B330 habitats. Image: Bigelow Aerospace
For its Gateway habitat mockup, Lockheed Martin is outfitting beds, tables and
windows in a 15-foot-wide and roughly 22-foot-long stainless steel structure
originally designed as a shipping container to carry supplies to and from the
International Space Station.
?The space that you?re living in has to be reconfigurable for the task at hand,?
Bill Pratt, Lockheed?s habitat program manager, told Reuters. ?Like in an RV,
your table becomes the bed that you sleep on at night.?
Bigelow said his B330 habitat has two toilets for a crew of up to six to use,
and that entertainment in the form of virtual-reality Earth simulations for
astronauts to feel at home was in the works for future habitats that will
revolve around Mars.