An astronaut just completed the very first walk (float?) into the ISS's inflatable space house — and it neither popped nor floated away while he was inside. Success! Astronaut Jeff Williams goes into BEAM (Image: Bigelow Aerospace)
Astronaut Jeff Williams became the first person to enter Bigelow Aerospace's expandable space structure, BEAM, yesterday afternoon at 6:47pm AEST.
Williams' first impression of the place was that it was very dark, very cold and very clean. Williams described the structure as "pristine", which is perhaps not much of a surprise as no person had been inside ever before. Importantly, it appears that the structure was dry, assuaging concerns that condensation may have been forming inside.
Williams stayed long enough to take an air sample and download data from the structure's sensors. Shortly after Williams entered, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka also floated into BEAM. After a few minutes, the two exited and closed up the hatch.
The description of the room from the first visit — cold, dark, clean — does sound a little more like a walk-in freezer than a new little house, but it's an important step forward. If the test is successful, Bigelow is already looking at more elaborate future designs, which would include entertainment centres, a fitness centre and individual crew quarters. If BEAM does well, we could see more — not only on the ISS, but also on future space missions.