This month, the Bigelow Airspace inflatable space habitation module was launched up to the ISS, attached and inflated (after a few slow starts). The module is designed to provide easy-to-add space for crew members, and is envisioned to be part of a “space hotel” assembly that Bigelow would love to put in orbit for us average Joes to visit.
Such a shame, then, that so many people are downplaying the success of the module because… it’s not pretty.
It seems that the public’s perception of science and engineering, especially in space, has been so colored by the incredible movie and TV special effects we’re treated to at all times that, when a proficient and realistically-incredible technical or engineering feat is pulled off, people automatically downplay it. “That doesn’t look like a starship to me.” “Star Trek looks so much better than that.” Etc.
It doesn’t help that our instant-gratification society seems to have no more patience for models, testing or prototyping. “Where’s my flying car?” is now the accepted mantra for demonstrating your impatience in science and technology catering to your needs.
But guys, you have to start somewhere. We are literally taking baby steps beyond our doorstep, severely limited by the miniscule budgets provided our space agencies to allow us to build more rockets, carriers, fighters and drones. These are prototypes… test modules designed to make sure you and I don’t go up there and suffocate, freeze or cook in cosmic radiation.
Yeah, the test module isn’t pretty. But it’s working (so far).
So give ’em some slack, okay?