Lockheed Martin is currently putting together a habitat prototype designed for deep space rather than the Earth’s orbit. This module is intended to possibly go beyond the moon’s orbit. The most interesting part about it is, they are building it with old parts salvaged from space shuttle era missions to the International Space Station (ISS).
Testing a Habitat Prototype for Deep Space
The contract from NASA with Lockheed Martin is Phase II of NASA’s NextSTEP program (Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships). This is a habitat study contract to look at how we could house astronauts out beyond the moon, and then how they could possibly leave the station unmanned for periods of time.
During Phase I, the team did initial design and simulations. This new step moves into actual prototypes and testing. Using one of the cargo pods once deployed with the now retired space shuttle to carry supplies to the ISS, they are constructing a full-scale version inside the Space Station Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center.
Astronauts will live inside these old parts to test some of the concepts that they developed in Phase I.
“It is easy to take things for granted when you are living at home,” said the program manager Bill Pratt, “But the recently selected astronauts will face unique challenges. Something as simple as calling your family is completely different when you are outside of low Earth orbit.”
So Pratt points out that the develp[ment team will need a new mindset while building this habitat. One that should be more focused on the idea of long trips, for example, to Mars or the Moon. The team will be looking to construct a “safe, healthy, and productive” environment.
This habitat prototype is all part of a larger NASA concept called the Deep Space Gateway. This station will be set to serve as a base for launching greater missions to Mars and even beyond. It may eventually even act as a factory for the construction of ships for these future missions.
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