Space station to get $18 million balloon-like room

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A 60-day stay will cost $25 million, which doesn’t include the $27.5 million it costs to get there and back.

Bigelow predicted that the primary customers will be upwardly mobile countries including Brazil, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates that “have a difficult time getting their astronauts into orbit” and could use a private space station to barter and build up prestige.

The biggest technological challenge will be transporting the collapsed module through the sub-zero temperatures of space without tearing or cracking any part of it, Miller said.

When it arrives at the space station in 2015, scientists will blow it up and let it sit for a few days to test for leaks. If it does not hold as promised, NASA will take back a portion of the already bargain basement price it paid Bigelow.

Standing beside scale models of research stations on Mars and the moon, Miller said the project will encourage commercial ventures to follow the path NASA blazes into space.

He added that it could also help achieve the holy grail of space exploration: missions that send astronauts out of orbit for more than a year.

“The only way to do that is to expand it out and voila you have living space for three people to go to Mars,” he said. “You can get three times the volume of a metallic can, and you can go up in the same ferry.”

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Hannah Dreier can be reached at http://twitter.com/hannahdreier.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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