- The hotel billionaire Robert Bigelow is dedicating part of his fortune to designing and building inflatable space habitats.
- On Thursday, his company Bigelow Aerospace unveiled its “Mars Transporter” test unit in Las Vegas. As part of a two-week ground test for NASA, astronauts will spend three days inside trying it out.
- The test unit is an early prototype of the B330, a habitat Bigelow wants NASA to use for its Artemis moon-landing program and, later on, travel to Mars.
- “Equipped with two galleys, two toilets, enormous cargo space, and two dissimilar propulsion systems, this is the ideal habitat for a long-duration space mission,” Bigelow said.
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The hotel mogul Robert Bigelow wants to take his idea of building inflatable space habitats and run with it — apparently, all the way to the moon and Mars.
On Thursday, the billionaire unveiled Bigelow Aerospace’s latest model of an expandable space-station prototype, the Bigelow Mars Transporter Testing Unit. The mock-up has the volume of four 40-foot-long cargo containers and was built in part for NASA astronauts and engineers to try.
Bigelow’s immediate goal is to persuade NASA, which is testing prototypes made by four other companies, to fund a space-worthy unit, called the B330 (so named because it would have 330 cubic meters of volume). The work is in support of the space agency’s $20 billion to $30 billion Artemis moon-landing program.
Artemis currently calls for housing astronauts inside a moon-orbiting space station called the Gateway. That way, there’d be a helpful pit stop between the lunar surface and Earth. In the more distant future, the Gateway may