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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Bigelow to Build Moon Base

Robert Bigelow announced, in an interview with Alan Boyle, that Bigelow Aerospace will be using their inflatable modules to construct "space villages."

According to Bigelow, after he launch of the first orbiting space hotel into low earth orbit in 2010, Bigelow Aerospace will move their focus to the 1st Earth-Moon Lagrange point, or L1. Lagrange points are locations in space where the forces of gravity balance to keep a permanently stable position.

Mr. Bigelow plans to turn L1 into "construction zone" where the large inflatable complexes will be expanded, assembled, and lower to the lunar surface. Once on the moon, the modules will be covered in lunar regolith, or dust, to protect the "space villages" from radiation.

According to Mr. Bigelow:

Yes, our concept of lunar base construction would be to assemble various modules and propulsion/power buses in L1, and that would constitute the base. Those propulsion systems are full of fuel, and they are integrated into the overall structure in such a way that the entire structure lands as a unified base – which essentially was once a spaceship in L1, but is landed on the surface of the moon.

Bigleow has been in talks with NASA on the concept. Apparently the construction of an inflatable base and the regolith radiation protection are two different ideas that NASA is interested in. NASA has also been in talks with ILC Dover, Lockheed, and Boeing about lunar bases.

Bigelow says they are working on an innovative solution to moving the regolith on the complex:

The last thing you want to do is handcuff yourself to an Earth solution for moving material – a strategy that would be just crazy to apply to a lunar application. We have enough problems as it is keeping the machinery running – Caterpillars, loaders, excavators, all kinds of machinery.

So our solution is something entirely different, involving a method where no machinery actually is used. We’re going to be trying the method this year, using one of our steel simulators as a prototype, because it’s the size of vessel that mimics the full-scale module. We’re actually going to try in Las Vegas to apply our solution for covering up a full-scale module, involving only two people, with a depth of soil on the crown of at least 2 or 3 feet. We’ll give you more on this later as we progress with this experiment.

Later this year they plan on conduction Earth based tests of the technology. Genesis I is going better than expected, and Genesis II is expected to launch in April. A larger test module, Galaxy, will launch next year.

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