A colleague recently shared an article with me that describes a new concept of inflatable additions for the space station or other space habitats. Idea simply being that one can pack all of the essential mission-critical infrastructure into a smaller package, then ‘inflate’ once on site to have a reasonably sized bubble to live and work in. The inflatable technology is engineered by Bigelow Aeropace.
This concept of mobile habitation is incredibly interesting. It is a fundamental principle behind my motivations in introducing habitats into my own ocean exploration work, and is something I’ve thought about numerous times while in the field – often ‘camping’. In recent years, backpacking has proven to be a good exercise here on terra firma, as it provides the challenge of carrying everything you need in a single [manageable] pack, including your sleeping quarters. I’ve been using an enclosed hammock. Once zipped up inside, much like being in the bunk of a ship, I have everything needed for sustenance and rest within my immediate personal space. Living in such close quarters is a great test, and an opportunity to pare down, way down. It doesn’t take long to realize that the simplicity that comes from living out of a backpack relieves much of the stress that comes with being embedded in ‘the real world’…bigger surely is not always better.
In the Western world, the living accommodation paradigm is generally to take up residence within the four walls and under the roof of a house. This brick and mortar structure is comprised of numerous systems to meet basic human needs, and further outfitted to provide a desired degree of comfort. DO we need this brick and mortar existence?
I don’t think so…its a function of our having too much ‘stuff’.
Now I suppose I’m as guilty as the rest with my 800 square foot lab chuck full of my tools of the trade to live and work this life aquatic. However, when I go home, I’m down to the bare essentials. I am confident that I could probably whittle it down to a single backpack and my trusty hammock if it came to it.
Conceptually, packing light but meeting basic human needs is something worth striving towards for all of us. Not only will it allow us to get over the bigger is better American consumerism that we are plagued with, but it will make our ability to stray off the beaten path – be it the woods, an extended stay underwater, or even to outer space just a little more realistic.