NASA’s Constellation Program is planning to return humans to the moon in 2020, and this time around, astronauts will engage in lengthy explorations of the lunar surface, requiring them to remain on the moon for long periods of time. For this purpose, NASA is developing astronaut living quarters that are not only safe and durable, but also lightweight and easy to transport. One concept is an inflatable habitat that offers 384 square feet of living space and resembles a backyard bounce house for children. A prototype of the habitat is being sent to the extreme, harsh environment of Antarctica for testing over the next year.
“Testing the inflatable habitat in one of the harshest, most remote sites on Earth gives us the opportunity to see what it would be like to use for lunar exploration,” said Paul Lockhart, director of Constellation Systems for NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, in a press release from NASA.
The inflatable habitat is to serve as a safe living space for the astronauts. It’s eight feet tall, insulated, and heated, and it has power and is pressurized. It can be taken down and set up in a few hours by four crew members so that astronauts have the freedom to explore more regions of the lunar surface.
The prototype is being shipped to Antarctica’s Murdoch Station, where it will be equipped with sensors and monitored by NASA engineers and members of the National Science Foundation, which has partnered with NASA on the project. The company that manufactured the inflatable habitat, ILC Dover, based in Frederica, DE, will also take part in the testing, which is scheduled for January and February 2008.