How do people enter the ISS

Spacemen enter the inflatable ISS living module for the first time

US astronaut Jeff Williams told NASA's control center that the Beam test module looked brand new and untouched after he opened the door. Together with his Russian colleague Oleg Kripotschka, he took air samples and collected data from sensors in the module.

Further visits to "Beam" are to follow in the coming days to check its equipment and sensors. "Beam" stands for Bigelow Expandable Activity Module. The module is to remain docked and tested on the ISS for two years. It was developed by the private company Bigelow Aerospace on behalf of the space agency NASA at a cost of 18 million dollars (around 16 million euros). When fully unfolded, the module is around four meters long and 3.2 meters wide, making it the size of a small room.

Living on Mars?

According to plans by NASA and Bigelow Aerospace, inflatable modules will serve as living spaces for astronauts on the moon or Mars in future decades. Their great advantage is that they take up little space during transport.

However, it is still unclear whether the construction with its foldable outer skin can reliably protect people from cosmic rays, extreme temperatures, as well as space junk and micrometeoroids flying around. For this reason, sensors are installed inside the "Beam", which measure the radiation, among other things. During the two-year test phase, ISS astronauts are to re-enter the module in order to read out this measurement data and to check the status of "Beam".

The module was inflated and put into operation for the second time on May 28th. The elaborate procedure lasted seven hours. Astronauts installed the balloon on the ISS in April after it was brought to the human outpost on board a "Dragon" capsule.

kle / ust (afp, dpa)