As much as we wish this was some type of anti-gravity bouncy castle, NASA's current experiments with inflatable structures are intended for slightly less entertaining implementation on the moon, where crews will use them as outposts for research, testing, storage, and living. NASA's contractor, ILC Dover, has presented a capsule-like prototype that's 12 feet in diameter and made of multilayer fabric. It's currently being evaluated for emerging technologies such as flexible structural health monitoring systems, self-healing materials, and radiation-protective materials. In addition, they showed a connecting smaller inflatable structure that served as a demonstration airlock. To justify these solutions, the team's next step is to perform studies comparing inflatable and rigid structures for crew habitats.The modular airtight inflatables are favored for being lightweight and adaptable, and if all goes well, the first extended-stay lunar missions could start as early as 2020.

[Via Primidi]

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NASA develops inflatable lunar habitat