Rooms with a view: Astronauts have design ideas for new space stations
Rounded windows and smart design should be key features in the next generation of space stations, astronauts say.
The SpaceX Crew-4 cohort of four astronauts, who returned to Earth October 14they have several years of spaceflight experience between them working on a two-decade-old International Space Station (ISS). They told the journalists ua press conference Thursday (Oct. 20) that their home in orbit is a great place to be, but the next generation of stations may take the technology even further.
“We’re trying to make these next leaps into deep space exploration,” said Crew-4 pilot and NASA astronaut Bob Farmer. “I think we need to really start thinking outside the box on a lot of these things. But first of all, if we’re going to do human research, you have to put the ‘human’ into the equation.”
Although the ISS is currently in good shape, NASA plans to transition to commercial space stations as soon as 2030 — and has contributed early-stage funding to support the effort. Selected agency Axiom space in January 2020 to build a commercial module that will be the genesis of a completely independent private station, and expanded the list commercial Low Earth Orbit (LEO) destinations. December 2021 to concepts designed by Nanoracks, Northrop Grumman and Blue Originwhich is partnering with Sierra Space on its project.
Farmer said these companies should start thinking about what new technologies can come to commercial space stations. ISS has pioneered its fair share, he said; although he did not point out specifics, a prominent example is recycling water from urine to reduce the need for shipments from Earth.
Farmer urged that, regardless of the technology companies are dealing with, they should keep efficiency and sustainability in mind. And then there’s the science to consider; Crew-4 Mission Specialist Jessica Watkins, a geologist specializing in mars WHO published a scientific paper while in space, he called for a next-generation design that includes a 360-degree dome window similar to the one the ISS got in 2010 (or for that matter, the one that Inspiration 4 the mission was flown on a modified SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule 2021)
The ISS dome allows astronauts to “look out the window, see the Earth below us and make scientific observations,” Watkins said, adding that the window also provides “more opportunities for crew members to interact with the environment they’re in, whether it’s a view of Earthor view of monthor even further – to Mars.”
ISS Expedition 68 Commander Samantha Cristoforetti, who has two long-duration missions under her belt, called for as much flexibility in the design as possible, especially in light of possible other users such as space tourists coming aboard.
“We will move to commercial space stations and have astronauts who may not be flying into space as professionals, but may be flying into space for fun,” she said. She urged engineers to consider designs “built with the human being in mind,” rather than asking people to adapt to the environment.
Cristoforetti said designers should be involved to assess the “usability and enjoyment of using such an object or feature,” but added that this is already commonplace in spaceflight. “So I’m pretty sure it will happen naturally.”
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