With an eye on the tourist industry of the future, US space company Bigelow aerospace have successfully deployed in orbit 550km above the Earth the first example of an inflatable space station. The company plan to launch a series of ten test craft which will test the feasibility of producing an inflatable space hotel to accommodate the next generation of thrill seekers and space explorers. The prototype, dubbed Genesis 1 and consisting of a 3 x 2.4 metre cylindrical tube, inflated and opened its solar panels correctly after it was carried aloft by a Russian Dnepr rocket, a converted former inter-continental ballistic missile. The interior was maintained at an agreeable 26 degrees C. Bigelow Aerospace hope to launch the next test-craft, Genesis II, later this year and if all goes according to plan the real-Dr McCoy could be in orbit by 2012. The only thing currently missing is the celestial tour bus to take future "hotelonauts" to and from their heavenly lodgings. This unfortunately still needs to be developed...


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