People are always looking for unique places to spend their vacation. Visitors to Iceland can sleep under the stars and possibly see the famous aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, when they sleep in an inflatable bubble.
The Aurora Bubble Hotel is a clear, inflatable plastic structure created by Icelandic Northern Lights expert Robert Sveinn Robertsson. When he was advising a customer on a Northern Lights expedition, the customer suggested creating a hotel with a clear ceiling so guests could sleep under the Northern Lights. Robertsson followed the suggestion, and the Aurora Bubble Hotel was opened to guests in January.
The hotel is inflated with a noiseless ventilation system. It continuously refreshes the air inside at two to seven times its volume every hour to prevent humidity. A thermostat controls the temperature, keeping the inside of the bubble comfortable, even in the winter. If the bubble gets punctured, it will slowly deflate, but a thin metal frame will support the walls until the bubble can be repaired.
The inside of the bubble has enough space for a full bed, a lamp, and two small suitcases. The bubble does not have a bathroom. Guests can use an outdoor outhouse and shower at the Secret Lagoon, a hot spring powered by a geyser that is located nearby.
During the winter, guests can enjoy the aurora borealis and a sky full of stars. In the summer, they can sleep under the midnight sun surrounded by birds and butterflies.
Privacy is a concern for guests, since the shell of the bubble is clear. Robertsson only shares the location of the bubble with guests after they have made their reservations.
Demand for the bubble has been so high that Robertsson plans to open two more to guests in July. The new bubbles will be large enough for a bed, a table, and two chairs. A new house with a toilet, shower, and kitchen will also open in July.
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module is an inflatable habitat made of advanced materials that can withstand impacts in space. It has a thick outer layer that is tough enough to protect the craft and crew from space radiation.
The BEAM will be transported into space as an 8-foot bundle. After it is inflated, it will be large enough to hold a car. When it expands to its full size, the BEAM will measure 12 feet long and 10 feet wide.
When it arrives at the International Space Station, the space station’s robotic arm will remove the BEAM from an unpressurized compartment. The BEAM will be the first of Bigelow’s space habitats that astronauts on the ISS will be able to enter. The hatch will be closed when astronauts are not using the BEAM. The crew of the ISS will not live in the BEAM because it will be too experimental and risky.
The module will function like an additional room added to the rest of the International Space Station. It will have a slightly cooler temperature. When it expands, there will be some slight condensation.
This will be Bigelow’s fifth berthing with the International Space Station. It will be the fourth with NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract. Similar operations are planned for the future.
The environment in the BEAM will generally work in the same way as the environment on the ISS. If the BEAM is successful, it will prove that inflatable habitats can work in space.
Bigelow licensed inflatable space habitat technology from NASA after Congress canceled TransHub, an expandable habitat project, in 2000. It is easier to transport inflatable habitats into space than other parts of the ISS, which need to be transported one piece at a time.
A SpaceX Dragon capsule will transport fungi specimens to the International Space Station. The capsule is scheduled to be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April 8.