The International Space Station has a new piece of real estate -- after technical difficulties last week astronauts have now inflated the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM).
In April, BEAM was sent up to the International Space Station, along with plans to inflate the module and attach it. Upon arrival, the module, which is developed by Bigelow Aerospace, measured 7.0 feet long and less than 7.5 feet in diameter.
After initially struggling to inflate the module Thursday, NASA announced Saturday that the room had inflated to 13 feet long and 10.5 feet in diameter in 10 minutes.
The resulting 3,000 pound pod provides 565 feet of space for living and working. It will be equally pressurized with the space station and remain attached to it for the next two years. Scientists will study it in an attempt to learn more about how livable it is. This project is part of NASA's efforts to push into exploration of Mars.
BEAM will undergo leak checks over the next few days. “Hatch opening and NASA astronaut Jeff Williams’ first entrance into BEAM will take place about a week after leak checks are complete,” wrote NASA, on its blog.
The blog also stated that the module will allow scientists “to gauge how well the habitat performs and specifically, how well it protects against solar radiation, space debris and the temperature extremes of space.”