Space Station Sunday: B.E.A.M. Me Up!

Good afternoon, space fans!  It's been another amazing week outside the atmosphere.  Here's what was up!

Well, we know which module we want to record a space-rock album in.
(Image courtesy

Last Saturday, a historical occasion took place when the B.E.A.M. (Bigelow Expandable Activities Module) was inflated to its full size adjacent the station.  The module, which is a collapsible "spare room" that is the first of its kind in space, was inflated via a series of some two dozen bursts of air, sent in via NASA astronaut Jeff Williams from the main body of the station.

Ground teams from NASA and Bigelow Aerospace worked at NASA's Mission Control at the Johnson Spaceflight Center to aid in overseeing the operation.  Air valves were opened for a total time of 2 minutes, 27 seconds to fill the B.E.A.M., however the full operation took around seven hours (to ensure stability of the new module.)

Every hot air balloon in history has been building up to this badassery.
(Image courtesy

Tomorrow, astronaut Jeff Williams will participate in another space first, when he ventures inside the B.E.A.M. to place sensors for monitoring its environment.  The module is an important leap forward in spaceflight, as it could make launch costs significantly cheaper when flying up the relatively-lightweight inflatable modules (only around 3,000 pounds) versus dealing with heavier spacecraft parts arriving piecemeal for construction.

The B.E.A.M.'s final size is 158 inches in length and 127 inches in diameter, providing 565 cubic feet of usable interior space.  It will remain aboard the station for two years, as studied are carried out on the viability of such units in space.  For more info on the B.E.A.M., inflate your brain here!

Time-lapse video of B.E.A.M.'s deployment.
No, it didn't just go *foomp* and fill with air.
Space safety is important when making history!

Meanwhile, on the ground, the crew of Expedition 48-49 are in Star City, Russia, readying themselves for their trip to the station on June 24th.  Soyuz Commander Anatoly Ivanishin and Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Takuya Onishi will launch from Kazahkstan and remain aboard the station until October 30th.

Onishi, Ivanishin, and Rubins ready themselves for some astro-adventure.
(Image courtesy

Want to take a spin around the station for yourself?  Check out this 3-D guided tour of the ISS!

And finally, what would another few laps around the planet be without some awesome imagery from astronaut Jeff Williams?  Throw it down for us dirt-siders!

Clouds over the Sahara Desert.

The Great Escarpment of South Africa.

An "intense light source" in Nevada, visible for over 1,000 miles...

...turns out to be not a reverse UFO, but the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project!
Check it out!

That's all for this week, space fans!  We'll see you soon, with more spectacularity from the stars.  Watch this space!

And they'll be watching us, right back.  Awww.
(Image courtesy NASA astronaut Jeff Williams.)

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