Space station getting inflatable room, a cosmic 1st

This image provided by Bigelow Aerospace on April 6, 2016 shows an illustration of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), center right, attached to the International Space Station. It's a technology demonstration meant to pave the way for moon bases and Mars expeditions, as well as orbiting outposts catering to scientists and tourists. (Bigelow Aerospace via AP)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Forget blowup air mattresses. Space station astronauts are getting their first inflatable room.

The technology demo is meant to pave the way for moon bases and Mars expeditions, as well as orbiting outposts catering to scientists and tourists.

Bigelow Aerospace is behind the experiment, which will get a ride to the International Space Station with another private space company.

An unmanned SpaceX Falcon rocket is set to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, late Friday afternoon.

The soft-sided Bigelow compartment will be attached to the outside of the space station and inflated to the size of a small bedroom. It will stay there for two years, with astronauts occasionally ducking in. Company owner Robert Bigelow is hoping for NASA permission to put experiments inside the chamber, if everything goes well.

 

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