The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) designed and built by privately owned Bigelow Aerospace was opened for the first time for astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Jeff Williams and Oleg Skripochka Station flight engineers opened the hatch of the BEAM at 4:47 a.m EDT.
The official statement issued by NASA stated, “On Monday, astronauts aboard the International Space Station floated inside an experimental inflatable module. It will be used for housing crews during extended stays in space for less expensive and potentially safer options.”
After facing some problems inflating the module, NASA astronaut Jeff Williams was finally able to open the ISS’s brand new room early on Monday. He told the US space agency’s mission control that new habitat BEAM looked pristine and because of two years of test, it was cold inside.
NASA further said that astronaut will enter the module on Tuesday and Wednesday again to check sensors and equipments. Also, they will be entering the BEAM several times a year to retrieve sensor data, assess conditions inside the unit, and protect against space radiations.
BEAM built by a Las Vegas-based firm was flown to the space station aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship in April. For two years, the $100 billion research laboratory flew about 250 miles above Earth. William and Skripochka floated inside the darkened module wearing face mask and headlamps to collect air samples for analysis and retrieve engineering data from the module.
On May 26, the first attempt to inflate the module failed for unknown reasons, but it got successfully deployed after a seven-hour operation on May 28. In the due time, Bigelow Aerospace is aiming to fly space modules which will be twenty times larger than BEAM, and will be leased to companies and research organization. This BEAM module will be used for future designs for a mission to Mars.
Check the astronauts taking their first walk inside the BEAM module: