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NASA retries to inflate spare room in space

WASHINGTON: NASA tried again Saturday to inflate an add-on room at the International Space Station, after the first attempt ran into problems due to too much friction.

Efforts to inflate the flexible habitat, known as the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), got under way at about 9 am (1300 GMT).

NASA is testing expandable habitats astronauts might use on the Moon or Mars in the coming decades. A first attempt on Thursday was not successful.

Bigelow, which developed the first-of-its-kind habitat as part of an $18 million contract with NASA, said it fully supported the decision to pause the expansion.

Fully expanded, the module should reach a size of 13 feet long (four meters) by 10.5 feet (3.23 meters) wide.

The initial plan was for astronauts to venture inside multiple times over the next two years to take readings from sensors inside the pod and to test how well it might protect against space radiation.

NASA said that if the expansion runs into problems, the astronauts may deflate the habitat and try again in the coming days. –AFP