Bright and early Thursday at 5:30 a.m. ET, NASA will blow up a giant inflatable habitat on the International Space Station (ISS). The $18 million dollar habitat, called the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) will be the star of a NASA live-stream as it expands into space.
The pod was sent to the ISS in April aboard SpaceX’s Dragon spaceship. The goal of the habitat, which will expand to about 6 feet long and 8 feet wide (the size of a small bedroom) is to give astronauts larger, more comfortable places to live on space missions, in particular ones headed to Mars.
- Facebook/Bigelow Aerospace
Over the next two years, sensors will measure how well the structure maintains safe temperature, pressure, and radiation levels, according to Popular Science. Starting on June 2, astronauts on board the ISS will routinely enter the module to keep track of how it performs in the harsh space environment, Wired reports.
At the end of the two years, BEAM will be “robotically jettisoned” back down to Earth.
Expandable habitats take up much less space on a rocket than what we use now, and also provide a “varying degree of protection from solar and cosmic radiation, space debris, atomic oxygen, ultraviolet radiation and other elements in space.”
If the inflatable habitat holds up to the test of time (and space), it will make sending large habitats into space cheaper and easier.
So check it out. Because what else is there to do at 5:30 in the morning?