These giant, inflatable habitats could be the first place we live in space

Contributed by
Mar 13, 2015, 12:33 PM EDT

It’s obviously expensive to actually get something into space, but one company thinks these inflatable astronaut habitats could give us a whole lot more bang for our buck.

Popular Science reports that Bigelow Aerospace is preparing to test the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) on the International Space Station (ISS) in September. The inflatable habitat will be sent up into orbit on a SpaceX rocket, where it’ll expand and dock with the ISS. From there, astronauts will use it as a lounge to test the viability of the tech.

If all goes well, the BEAM could eventually be used as a space habitat with all kinds of applications. NASA has already given the company a $17.8 million contract, and if this initial test goes well, there are plans for a massive habitat (actually larger than the ISS itself) in space and eventual lunar bases made with the same inflatable concepts. But it all hinges on this initial test to prove the BEAM is viable to be used in space.

For the test, scientists will be tracking everything from how astronauts use the facility to how it acts in space (from heat retention, the elements, etc.). Do you think inflatable habitats are the space homes of the future?

(Via Popular Science)