Inflatable Future

The near future of human exploration or even colonization of space will be done via inflatable spacecraft. Like the Sundancer above (artist's representation). Don't be fooled by the apparent small size - inflatable craft will be much bigger than near term metallic spacecraft. Consider Bigelow's (the company behind inflatable spacecraft) BA 330 compared to the Destiny module on the ISS:
But wait, you say, how can inflatable craft survive the harsh climes of space? Check it:
Rather than balloon, think really thick tire, with multiple layers. Tough as hell, and superior to our current metal ships which are often no thicker than a heavy aluminum. The craft will launch in a folded arrangement which greatly saves space on the rocket, and then expands in space as compressed gas is used to inflate it. The resulting structure is stronger than our current metals and far better at shielding from radiation, while not weighing that much more. It's an ingenious solution to the constraints gravity places on what we can launch into space with our current rocket tech. And this inflatable future is close, as Bigelow is booked to launch aboard a SpaceX rocket in the near future for a big test to conclusively prove the technology to NASA and other space powers. Have a model!
The BA 330 is incredibly spacious as compared to even the relatively expansive ISS. But since these modules are also nodes that can link up into larger structures, perhaps now you see the full potential. A quick and cheap and large space station:
A mock up for muckety-mucks. Bigelow of course is a private company, and is poised to become the first real estate developer in space. The Space Hotel is nigh! Massive fortunes await. And of course this too is but a start. Witness the possibility of the EDE:
A realistic in the near term spacecraft that could comfortably transport people to Jupiter, Saturn, and if we're brave, beyond. It's huge and really not that complicated or expensive. The Bigelow modules make up the bulk of the craft, providing huge areas for storage and living - heck, one of the modules could be a farm with chickens and hydroponic vegetables and fish tanks. And enough space so a person can move about a bit - also note the centrifuge for 1G sessions. All it takes is a couple of hours a day of just riding in it and you have no worries about bone loss or muscle weakening - thus, all the conditions are right for people to travel long term in space.

Now, a bigger question is why you'd want to send folks to Jupiter and beyond, but I'll leave that for you to answer. Until then, let the inflatable future begin!


AbstruseOddity said...

If I learned there was an opening on a one-way mission anywhere I'd take it. I'd sell all my stuff, and train in any discipline they required. I'd do anything for the opportunity.

Redshirt said...

Me too. Safety be damned as well.

Alas, we were born too soon.