Answer: an inflatable space habitat.
There’s already an inflatable habitat as a component of the International Space Station, but Bigelow, the company who built it, wants to take things one step further. In an announcement this week, Bigelow’s president Robert Bigelow revealed the company’s plans for the B330 habitat, which they want to have in lunar orbit by 2022.
Made of a multi-layered, super-strong Kevlar-like material, the B330 will launch in a compact form and then expand to five times that size once in Earth’s orbit. After that, it will commence its journey to the moon. Once there, Bigelow envisions a number of uses for it, from a deep-space base to a space farm to a “private yacht” for truly ambitious (and deep-pocketed) tourists.
Bigelow will partner with United Launch Alliance (ULA) for the project. In an announcement on ULA’s website, Robert Bigelow said, “This commercial lunar depot would provide anchorage for significant lunar business development in addition to offering NASA and other governments the moon as a new exciting location to conduct long-term exploration and astronaut training.”