July 11, 2004

"Instead of boxes, you get rooms..."

Do take a look at this article on inflatable space habitats, being created by businessman Bob Bigelow, owner of the Budget Suites of America hotel chain...

...To understand just how revolutionary Bigelow's projected cost savings might be, consider the International Space Station. By 2010, this troubled project will have cost a total of $50 billion, will be 10 years behind schedule and will contain about half of the habitable work space that had been planned, around 550 cubic meters. Just two of Bigelow's planned modules will exceed the entire work space of the ISS, but since the modules will cost around $100 million apiece, the savings become obvious. Two hundred million dollars vs. $50 billion is quite a difference, enough of a difference to entice other private companies into the new space race.

"More space at a cheaper price allows companies to do large-scale things," NASA's Miller says. "Instead of boxes, you get rooms, for experiments, for equipment, for manufacturing. The next generation of medicines, the next generation of materials and technology could all come from the zero-gravity environment. This is where people are going to make a lot of money. And that will really accelerate the science and create direct benefits for humans on Earth."...

What's really interesting is how Bigelow's company is now partnering with NASA.

Actually, even more interesting is the cultural change: Guys make their first billion, and nowadays, instead of focusing on the America's Cup or the Kentucky Derby, they head for space! This, if I may use an oft-misused phrase correctly, [see Word-Note here] is a sea-change.

Afterthought: It might become some kind of high-tech macho one-upmanship thing. Paul Allen's a Microsoftie, so imagine Larry Ellison or Scott McNealy deciding they just have to compete?

(Of course I blogged the same inflatable habitat idea here, way back in 2002, but no matter. I won't dispute priority; it's progress that's important!)

(Thanks to Will Collier)

Posted by John Weidner at July 11, 2004 12:22 PM
Weblog by John Weidner