Space test just the start of Bigelow Aerospace’s big plans

Space Science

Aerospace pioneer Robert Bigelow announces the successful launch of a Russian rocket carrying his Genesis One payload. The Genesis One is an expandable housing chamber for use in space. Aired on July 13, 2006, on KLAS TV in Las Vegas. Part 2 of a 2 Part series.


“We’ve got some great news. It is healthy, it is alive,” Robert Bigelow said to the cheers of his employees.

Las Vegas businessman Bob Bigelow never expected to hear good news on Wednesday, he expected his Genesis One spacecraft to fail. Not even close.

In the first TV interview he has ever granted, Bigelow told us about his goals, short term and long term. Some will knock your socks off. Some will be just plain fun.

Robert Bigelow’s vision is centered on making space accessible and interesting to the public as the next space race moves into the private sector. (KLAS-TV)

“That’s a major objective of ours, is to connect it to the general public and by God, make it fun,” Bigelow said.

From the launch of the Russian rocket in Siberia, to the successful deployment of the craft in orbit, to the contact and control achieved by his team, everything came up aces. “It kind of hasn’t sunk in yet,” exclaimed Bigelow.

But it’s about to by necessity.

Each of Bigelow’s spacecraft, and he expects to have eight of them floating around up there within the next three years, will carry an array of video cameras inside and out. Genesis One has already sent back still images of itself. What if the exterior surface of the craft were used as a message board? Happy Birthday mom, or Drink Duff Beer. Images that would be downloadable on your home computer. Bigelow thinks people would pay for something like that.

Inside the craft, other cameras could focus on a clear container filled with photos of loved ones. And people on Earth could watch as their own photo floats around in zero gravity.

“Download it to our website and try to freeze frame it so people can see the photo, and if they happen to be away from their screen. But they could see it in real time. You know, if they sat there and watched pictures, photographs, anything from toys, the bottle capsule, whatever, that somebody wants to fly and say, oh, I’ve got something on that spacecraft up there as mine,” Bigelow said.

Something like your least favorite Madagascar hissing cockroach or maybe a few scorpions.

Genesis One is an unmanned mission, but it’s still carrying passengers. An assortment of bugs to gauge how critters handle space. The bug room at Bigelow Aerospace contains the next generation of eight legged astronauts. Science students could design their own experiments and send them up.

You say you like games? How about space Bingo. As the spacecraft cruises around Earth, it could conduct bingo games in different languages, not for cash, but maybe for points or prizes or just fun. ideas like these could generate revenue streams for Bigelow until his big stuff becomes operational.

The Nautilus, gigantic by space standards, is three times the size of the modules on the International Space Station.

Bigelow Aerospace’s “Nautilus” module is three times bigger than modules now on the International Space Station. (KLAS-TV)

Bigelow expects to create his own space complex, part of which could be used as a hotel. He’s confident he can make space tourism more affordable than it is today. But you’d better start saving up anyway.

“It’s still a huge number. We’re hoping that we can provide a three week visit for somebody in the neighborhood of $8 million, which is a hell of a lot of money. But it’s not as much as $20 million, which other people supposedly have paid the Russians,” Bigelow said.

Other modules in his space complex might be rented out by the governments of nations without space programs of their own who are unlikely to ever get a spot on the existing Space Station. Bigelow figures a lot of them would jump at the chance.

And should NASA ever follow through on plans to return to the moon or take a jaunt to Mars, chances are that Bigelow’s expandable habitats will be along for the ride. “We don’t see any reason that these envelopes can’t be used on the surface of the moon, or the surface of Mars for bases,” Bigelow said.

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