back to article NASA dumps $65m into building deep space hutches for humans

Living in space is about to get a lot more cushty as NASA invests $65m to be shared between six companies chosen to design and develop deep space habitats. The collaboration between NASA and private companies is part of the space agency’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) set up to advance human …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'All The Mod Cons'

    Can i have mine lined with six foot thick lead walls please?

    1. Baldy50

      Re: 'All The Mod Cons'

      Come on we trying to be more green for pities sake, think of the extra fuel costs and the delivery charges and you might look good with an extra head.

      1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme Silver badge

        @Baldy50 - Re: 'All The Mod Cons'

        "...and you might look good with an extra head."

        Arthur Dent was pretty clear about that. Although, unless you go by Phil or Zaphod, you should be OK there.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: 'All The Mod Cons'

      "Can i have mine lined with six foot thick lead walls please?"

      Lead doesn't block neutrons (which is why it was used as a coolant in some nuclear reactor designs)

      Water blocks gamma and particles.

    3. paulc

      Re: 'All The Mod Cons'

      water is more use than Lead... you can drink it and recycle it...

    4. MrXavia

      Re: 'All The Mod Cons'

      6ft's a bit extreem I'd prefer a few feet of water and an electromagnetic plasma shield (i hear that lead can throw off some nasty secondary radiation)

  2. lafnlab


    $65 million seems like a pittance considering how much the ISS cost.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cost

      Considering one of the 'Candy Brothers' flats in London will set you back about £150million, it does seem a small amount!

  3. Dwarf Silver badge

    How things have changed

    I read this and thought, wow, they are updating their computing hardware to NeXTSTEP, then I realised the capitalisation was different ..

    I suppose having somewhere to live when you get there is a next obvious step, but this can't be without a catch ...

    I'm just wondering what the call out rates are for the essential maintenance on the housing though, it must be difficult to get a plumber or a painter when you really need one. Now I'm thinking about the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy and the Golgafrinchans 3 ships again !

  4. Pen-y-gors Silver badge


    "requirements, including: a pressurized container; a docking capability; environmental control; life support systems; crew health capabilities; fire safety technologies; logistics management; and radiation mitigation and monitoring."

    What, no WiFi, tea and coffee making facility, mini-bar, Corby space-suit press, Gideon Bible?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Requirements...

      ..and no coin-operated Magic Fingers in the bed personal pouch.

      I bet Magic Fingers won't work well in free fall anyway. Unless you're strapped in real good...

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Requirements...

        I'm not sure about magic fingers, but in order to weigh themselves on the space station, astro/cosmonauts strap themselves to what is basically a stick on a spring. How fast they wobble up and down (er, not that there's an up or down in free fall) is determined by their mass.

        Surely there's room for a device that gives one a nice massage, while also measuring mass?

    2. Yesnomaybe

      Re: Requirements...

      And no requirement for spinning it around to imitate gravity. Less relevant for Mars obviously, but that is something we really should be doing to crack the problem of bone and muscle loss in space.

      I would have put that pretty high up on the list to be honest...

      1. strum Silver badge

        Re: Requirements...

        >And no requirement for spinning it around to imitate gravity

        Yes - that does seem an omission.

        Still, we do seem to have missed the point of Space - in that there's a lot of it. We will only ever 'conquer' that volume of space which we can enclose and tailor to our needs.

        For any longish-term space occupation, we're going to need quite a lot of space:

        1. To deliver said artificial gravity by spinning a fairly-large-diameter torus/cylinder

        2. To grow food (which has the additional value of 'growing' oxygen).

        3. To house the number of people required to make up and maintain an autonomous society.

        Our best bet is likely to be to find an asteroid and hollow it out.

        1. mosw

          Re: Requirements...

          >"1. To deliver said artificial gravity by spinning a fairly-large-diameter torus/cylinder"

          They can just join 2 of the habitats together with a long cable, apply a short burst of thrust and start them spinning around each other. That assumes that the habitats could take the stress, but since they have to survive launch stresses maybe they are already strong enough.

          It will be tricky to get in and out of the habitats once the are spinning but when you toss out the trash it won't stick around.

    3. IsJustabloke

      Re: Requirements...

      "What, no WiFi, tea and coffee making facility, mini-bar, Corby space-suit press, Gideon Bible?"

      Wouldn't most of that be covered by "life support systems" ?

    4. Robert Moore

      Re: Requirements...

      There will be a Gideon Bible, you can bet on it.

      Those Gideons are everywhere.

  5. Baldy50

    Nice idea

    We aren’t technologically advanced enough yet, I wish we were but although a lot can be learned from space exploration I think the machines have the upper hand for now.

    The ISS is great and cost a big bucket of dough, maybe the extra funding should be spent on the ISS IMO.

    BTW Will this one be pod shaped as well cos round just don't work with any of my furniture?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nice idea

      To be fair, this type of habitat testing is a big part of why the ISS was conceived in the first place. If us hairless apes want to cruize thru the starry dome overhead in style, we're gonna need really sophisticated artificial support. Too many things can kack you out there.

      This expenditure is clearly very preliminary, but it has to begin sometime.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fat Bastards inSpace

    Would there be a weight limit on the individuals who are not trained Astronauts.....if not could we launch Sir Philip Green into the void?

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Fat Bastards inSpace

      Too Fat Too Fly?

      But seriously - given how long it will take to get to mars and back whoever goes there will need something like a habitat instead of a capsule.

    2. PleebSmasher

      Re: Fat Bastards inSpace

      There is a similar argument that only women should be allowed to go to Mars, since they consume less calories.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: to Mars - [women] consume less calories.

        Since we aren't likely to be shipping a large population to Mars, the sex-based average calorie consumption isn't relevant.

        We should just pick some suitably qualified people to go, perhaps adding a "consumes less calories" criteria if it seems relevant to the logistics, although it seems to me that "small enough to fit in this tiny tin can" might be more useful, and also keep calorie counts down.

        And if you were shipping a population, perhaps one intended to be long-term self-sustaining, is not shipping any men a good idea, even if it did save on calories?

        1. PleebSmasher

          Re: to Mars - [women] consume less calories.

          "Since we aren't likely to be shipping a large population to Mars, the sex-based average calorie consumption isn't relevant."

          If it takes up to several months for your ship to travel to Mars, you have to have several months of food supply per person, and double if it is a simple flyby/orbit and return mission, as has been proposed before. The average man weighs more than the average woman, and consumes more calories. That's more weight redirected to food that could be instead used for radiation shielding, fuel, etc.

          Given that shipping women to Mars will be cheaper to some degree than shipping men, you could consider starting a colony by including some frozen sperm along for the ride.

          1. IT Poser

            Re: to Mars - [women] consume less calories.

            The real reason to send women is that men will end up following them.

  7. Esme

    My money's on Bigelow Aerospace

    So far as I'm aware, they have a clear lead in the space hab game - a tested technology with a couple of years time in orbit already, superior shielding to anything on the ISS, and more usable volume per ton launched than 'tin can' -style technology. Can't see Boeing catching Bigelow any time soon. Sierra Nevada have form too, although with shuttle-type space planes.

    1. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

      Re: My money's on Bigelow Aerospace

      This is about deep space not LEO. Bigelow have a lead in the game but it is diminished by the much higher radiation further out. It could even be a disadvantage as they will inevitably go down the route of increased layers of the technologies they have already developed. Other players could take a clean sheet approach and come up with something superior.

      I'd put money on Bigelow being in the top 3 come the prize giving but that's as far as I'd stick my neck out.

  8. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Not for me thanks, I love it here on Terra Firma...

  9. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Lots of road containers.

    Send em up one at a time and just lego them together into a big sphere and eventually it will be safe to live in the middle. We send enough up the mass of the earth drops and it gets cheaper!

    A similar technique can be used to make massive floating pontoons at sea - the outside ones will damp the waves and it would be nice in the centre.

    1. Timbo

      Re: Lots of road containers.

      "Send em up one at a time and just lego them together into a big sphere and eventually it will be safe to live in the middle."

      On a similar vein, why not re-design the 2nd stage boosters (which normally just burn up in the atmos once they are "used") and collect them together in orbit, join them up and re-use them/recycle them.

      It might take a bit of re-imagining how these boosters are designed so they could be "dual use" (ir as boosters and then as storage/habitats/raw materials but they could be re-used post-launch, and it would be a start.

      1. Robert Moore

        Re: Lots of road containers.

        I always thought they should keep the shuttle external fuel tanks in orbit. Lots of space, and they were already gastight.I guess it doesn't really matter anymore. :(

  10. Chris G Silver badge

    Now might be a good time to start broadcasting a wanted ad for a General Products hull, you can build any kind of habitat you like in one of those.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Ask it nicely, it will build the habitat for you...

  11. lee harvey osmond


    So, presumably, these habitats will have the form factor of a 12" cube of magnesium alloy covered with water-based black paint?

  12. cray74

    $65 million?!

    Just give Mark Watney some hab canvas, duct tape, and potatoes, he'll have it done for a lot less.

    Watch out for his travel expenses from the work site, though.

  13. The Nazz Silver badge

    NASA need to have a word with Nelly down our road

    For the small sum of $40 ( 30GBP ) she took me much further than i'd ever been before.

  14. Chris 239

    That's a very specific and limited set of requiremetns, I was expecting a last requirement something like "maintain stable orbit for 10 seconds"!

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