September 22, 2020

Welcome To Your Home in Space

Four rooms, earth view.

Sounds far-fetched atthe moment, doesn't it? But you know we may beseeing ads like this in the not too distant future.

Living away from earth has always captured our imagination.

As well as providingthe basics for survival, these ideas are a symbol of humankind's uniquecreativity and ambition.

This advanced base, or space station, will be headquarters for thefinal ascent to the moon.

Today the idea of multiple outposts where we can live and work inspace has never seemed closer.

We're gonna fly.

It's about making our livesthe best we can make it.

It's about as a specieshaving a path for our future.

And the mission to create these habitats is well underway asprivate companies get ready to take that next giant leap.

The International Space Station.

It's the only space habitat we have.

One of the first placesthey take you in the ISS is the cupola so you canfinally look at the Earth in all its beauty.

I don't care who you are, it's always stunning, it's shocking, it's amazing, because that's the view you've been waiting for your entire life.

It passes over 90% ofthe world's population without most of us ever realizing.

And, at an estimatedcost of a $150 billion, it's the most expensiveobject we've ever built.

You think about the SistineChapel, the pyramids, and the Burj Khalifa or take your pick.

I mean it far outstrips those.

It's the one and onlynon-terrestrial human outpost.

We've had a constant human footprint in orbit for almost 20 years because of theInternational Space Station.

The collaboration between 15 countries started construction in1998 and was pieced together in space over the course of a decade.

Since 2000 it's been a permanently crude research laboratory.

A space habitat that'sallowed humankind to live, manufacture, and explore beyond Earth.

The overarching achievement of the space station has been education.

It has educated us abouthow to do research.

It's educated us about how to live.

It's educated us about theharshness of the environment that it is in.

And it's about learning, I think.

People say what was oneof your favorite parts about being up there? Hands down, floating everywhere I went.

Bbut your first impressionsfor ISS certainly is, it's how big it is.

The ISS is the size of an American football fieldwith most of that footprint taken up by eight solar arrays.

These provide enoughenergy to power 40 homes.

The station has an Americanside and a Russian side as well as contributionsfrom other nations like Canada, Japan, and the European Union.

Astronauts on board can passfreely between these sections.

Their living and workingareas are made up of modules, each 4.

2 meters in diameter.

And in total, they have thesame volume as a Boeing 747.

The three main labs, Destiny, Hope, and Columbus, are conducting up to600 ongoing experiments at any one time.

And while it's been a collaboration between governments tobuild and maintain the ISS, its next chapter will relymore on private enterprise.

Today's a very remarkable day.

NASA is opening theInternational Space Station to commercial opportunities and marketing these opportunities as we've never done before.

Managing and maintaining the ISS costs $3.

4 billion a year.

That's over half NASA'sspace operations budget.

Aging hardware and space debriswill only add to these costs which is why NASA is now hopingto pass some responsibility for the station over tocommercial companies.

We would like to see arobust commercial marketplace in low earth orbit wherespace stations exist outside of NASA.

The goal being that NASAcould be a customer.

And we want to have numerous providers that are competing against each other on cost and innovation.

Keep your rut, and– With federal fundingproposed to stop in 2025, opening the station to private enterprise would free up resources forthe space agency's ambitions to return to the moon and journey to Mars.

Transferring to a more commercial model is allowing industry to takeover many of those areas that NASA has traditionallybeen responsible for.

Like the design, and operations, and maintenance of space systems.

But the most exciting part, Ithink, is new opportunities.

The iPhones would have never come from the government, for instance.

The base technology camefrom the government, but the way it's used, the wayit interacts with consumers, governments aren't really built for that.

So I think that'll be excitingto see how private industry uses the same technologyor the same systems but then use them in a different way.

Every NASA achievement has been the collaborativeachievement of NASA and industry.

What's going on right nowthat's a little bit different is NASA is turning to companies, not to direct them what to do, but it's turning to companiesto build relationships with them because those companiesare attracting investment from non-space sources andare bringing a different kind of innovation to the table.

In the shadow of NASA's sprawling Johnson Space Center, the headquarters of startup Axiom Space might seem a little modest, but their goal is big, to build the firstcommercial space station.

Led by a former ISS program manager, the team has beeninvolved in every mission to the station since its inception.

We know it has to be muchlower cost to operate on orbit than ISS is today so this is key to continuing the heritage of ISS.

It's to start there sowe can evolve everybody to the next platform.

I liken this to the Internet.

So the Internet was created, and we got very excited, and any kid with a good idea and just the basic programming skills could go build a program to do something.

We have huge companiesthat grew out of that and still today there's newideas, new things being built.

The thing about a microgravity environment is it's limitless.

It's like the data we have access to on the Internet is limitless.

And it is not immediatelyobvious to us all the benefits that that's gonna entail but over time it willbecome very, very obvious.

By 2024, Axiom plansto send a central node to attach to the ISS thatwill make up the core of their new station.

This will be followed bycrew quarters for 16 people and research and manufacturing modules.

When the ISS is retired, this will break awayand additional modules with a life span of 30 years will be added and swapped out as theyage using a robotic arm.

And they're hoping to do all of this for 1/50th the cost of the ISS.

I mean when you talk about our vision, it sounds really simple.

It really is about driving the thought process and the cost down so that anybody thatwants to take advantage of our place in orbit and a microgravity environment can do so.

And that's really it.

Okay Ellen, I need to go towards my feet.

The International Space Station is a fantastic vehiclebut one of the big things is they have quite a fewmajor components outside.

Which means you have to do an EVA, a spacewalk, to go fix it.

A spacewalk on a good day isa hundred hours of crew time to get ready and actuallygo do the spacewalk, so we're able to take advantage of the reduced size of components.

And so our design is gonnahave all of the components are gonna be in a pressurized environment.

So we know what the basics are.

Water, food, clothing, life support.

And we know how to handle those but now the next step is howdo we make it more intuitive and we want to now takeadvantage of the technologies and the capabilities we have today to build more luxury into the experience.

The objective is to make theenvironment the background for all the users.

You're every day doing whateveryou want to do on orbit.

Research, manufacturing, looking out the window.

Whatever you're there to do, we want you to be able to do that and not even think about the environment.

And it's because of our experience on ISS, and what the team brings to Axiom Space, we are able to build that environment.

You won't worry about that.

Three, two, one, release, release, release.

Fire, fire! Like Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, Axiom is hoping to attract space tourists with tickets starting at $55million for a 10-day mission.

But that's just one part of the commercial space station market that they think could be worth $37 billion over the next decade.

Our first commercial customers are countries who have astronauts in space and want to expand their activity in space and countries who do not yet have a human space flight program who want to send people up.

And we've now got both researchand manufacturing companies who want to do work with us while we're at theInternational Space Station and on our platform afterit separates from ISS.

Human space flight isparticularly exciting because it's that slice ofspace that is really nascent.

It hasn't undergone the crowdingthat satellites have had.

It hasn't already hadthat explosive growth.

It's really ready for that now.

The first thing I'm reallylooking forward to seeing happen is the face of our firstastronauts on orbit looking back down on us andknowing that we had a hand in sending that person to space.

And ultimately the separation of ISS when it's ready to beretired and de-orbited and then we continuein space independently.

For me, that is a steppingoff moment for humanity.

It's almost like when Neil Armstrong put that first boot on the moon.

This will be the firsttime that we've gone from a platform of learninghow to live in space to building our permanent home in space.

Other private companies also want to use theISS as a starting point for their own ventures.

Bigelow Aerospace already has one of its inflatable structuresattached to the station.

And others including Sierra Nevada and NanoRacks have put forward proposals.

Space habitats are expensive.

I think it's a false dichotomy to say, “Okay, we're done with theInternational Space Station, “let's move on to commercial platforms.

” What I think is muchmore likely and realistic and what NASA is certainly driving toward is an incremental transitionwhere commercial platforms attach to the space station or work collaborativelywith the space station.

The next chapter cannot occur without the activeengagement of companies.

That said, that active engagementmight not be as customers, might not be as drivers, it might be in service ofgovernment mission objectives.

We will return Americanastronauts to the moon.

Not only to leave behindfootprints and flags but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond.

This proposed mission, along with SpaceX's own ambitionto reach the Red Planet, has opened up a longer term market.

And some companies are already thinking beyond orbiting habitatslike space stations to actually building on thesurface of other planets.

I was working in a firmdesigning skyscrapers and I saw Elon and helanded his Falcon X rocket in the middle of the ocean.

Andthat, for me, was a trigger.

I thought, “Wow, thiscould actually happen.

” And it's always been my dream to put a building on the moon or Mars, and if he's going at the pace he's going, it could definitelyhappen within my lifetime and I want to be the one to build it.

In this warehouse alongside startups from across the U.

S.

, architecturefirm, AI SpaceFactory, are refining the production of MARSHA, a four-story structure theycreated for a NASA competition to design the next generationof space habitats on Mars.

When we started designingour Mars habitat, MARSHA, I think we looked at everythingthat had been done already and kind of tossed that aside.

But what we were given was aset of guidelines from NASA.

They think the best wayto build a habitat on Mars or the moon is to use what they call in situ resource utilization.

So use the materials that are there.

If you've seen Sci-Fi movies, you might see glass and steeldomes on distant planets, but the reality is toship that kind of material to the moon or Mars wouldbe so exorbitantly expensive you would never be able tobuild in the first place.

So the idea is to sendthe 3D printing robot which can then harvest thematerials you find on a site and build with that.

The reusable print material is a mix of biopolymermade from recycled plastic or plants like corn and sugarcane.

And basalt, the rockfound on Mars and Earth.

It's the rock that givesus its incredible strength.

We've tested this material.

It's three times as strongas concrete in compression and it actually has what wecall it, a tensile compass.

It can prevent itselffrom being pulled apart which is somethingconcrete's not very good at.

You need to think at all times how do you optimize the amountof material that you use.

And that's also why thisthing is shaped like an egg.

And if you think of an egg, it's a very structurally optimized form.

It's very, very thin but itprovides the strength that that egg needs and that's why this is shaped the way that it is.

The egg shape as well as the nested shell structure also accommodates for extreme differences in pressure and temperatureon the surface of Mars.

But more research still needs to be done to find out how printmaterials could be gathered and how 3D printing would work in the unique environment of space.

You're dealing with a completelydifferent set of physics and environments which is very harsh.

The cold, the low gravity, the vacuum of space.

And finding solutionsfor how to build there or do anything in space just requires a high degree of innovation.

There's no such thing as bruteforce when it comes to space.

Like you need to think about the problem, find a very elegant, lightweight, cost-effective solution.

The next challenge is reallygoing to places on Earth, literally taking the dirtthat we're finding on a site, and beginning to print with the dirt.

We have to perfect thistechnology on Earth, and then we go prove it out on the moon, and then finally on to Mars.

The first customers could include NASA andcompanies like SpaceX who would lease out these structures for individual missions.

But before that AI SpaceFactory hope their technology could be monetized as well as transformational here on Earth.

The challenges ofbuilding on Mars forced us to make this jump inconstruction technology which we can now apply on Earthto build more sustainably.

So rather than buildingwith steel and concrete, which are these manufactured, very energy-intensivematerials, to go to a site, have a solar powered array that would then allow our 3D printer to print in the mostsustainable way possible.

And we never would have found these ways if it wasn't for the challengeof building in space.

Three, two, one.

Ignition and liftoff of theFalcon 9 to the space station on the first commercial launch from Kennedy SpaceCenter's historic Pad 39A.

Humans have now been consistently living and working in spacefor more than 15 years.

And if we want to keep that up, what do habitats need to look like? And frankly, they can belarge or they can be small, but the future of spacehabitats really, to me, comes down to the ability to persistently maintain human presence.

Whether that's a fewpeople or many people, that seems to be the dividing line between where we were before and where we want to be in the future.

We have to learn how to benefitfrom what we do on orbit and bring those natural benefits back home so we help ourselves out on the ground while we also learn tolive somewhere else.

And it really, at the very deepest level, is about survival of our species, so I get pretty excitedwhen I spend a few moments thinking about what we're off to go do 'cause this really is the first step to learning to live off the planet.

That first step is just the start of our journey to createa lasting legacy in space.

While commercial companiesmay be stepping in to imagine what these newspace habitats look like, it's what's happening inside of them that may unlock the futureof space industrialization.

On the next episode of Giant Leap, we'll visit the private companies who are looking to build their business around manufacturing in space.

Using the uniqueproperties of microgravity, they plan to create new materials with extraordinary qualities that can't be replicated on Earth.

Including new manufacturing techniques that could change how we buildlarge structures in space and even unlock the abilityto 3D print full human organs.

But before low earth orbit can become a new industrial center, we're going to need totake another giant leap.

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