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NSF, NASA Test Inflatable Habitat

November 26, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 48

This inflatable habitat may one day find use on the moon.
Credit: Peter West/NSF

A prototype inflatable habitat is on its way to Antarctica for testing as a future home for scientists stationed at the South Pole and astronauts who visit the moon. The tests are being conducted through a joint effort by NSF, NASA, and ILC Dover, the Frederica, Del., company that manufactured the structure. The structure will be set up at NSF's McMurdo Station, where it will be tested from January 2008 to February 2009. The powered habitat is insulated, heated, and pressurized. Once inflated, the structure has 384 sq ft of living space and has 8-foot ceilings at its highest point. NSF is interested in this structure as a lighter and easier-to-assemble alternative habitat for use in Antarctica. The lightweight characteristics are also of interest to NASA because landing 1 lb of supplies on the lunar surface requires launching 125 lb of hardware and fuel, the agency says. "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 for lunar exploration," says Paul Lockhart, director of constellation systems in NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate.


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