International Space Station gets air-filled extension

America's National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has inflated a special room for crew members to use. The inflatable pod is an extension to the International Space Station (ISS). It is four metres long and 3.2 metres wide. It took three days to fully inflate. ISS crew members must wait a week before entering it to check if it is airtight. The blow-up compartment is part of a test on the feasibility of inflatable accommodation in space, and of orbiting space hotels. The demo capsule cost $17.8 million. This initial test should lead to bigger inflatable capsules at the space station.

The inflatable is the world's first blow-up space capsule. It was designed and built by Bigelow Aerospace. The company's founder Robert Bigelow has spent many years investing in and building hotels on Earth. He is currently working on a project to build two private space stations. These could be used as hotels in space by the end of the decade. He said he could see inflatables as a big part of space travel and tourism in the future. They are small enough to transport into space as airless units, but big enough and sturdy enough to live in, once filled with air.