The ultimate goal has always been to see if humans can live in space. To do this we would have to build somewhere for astronauts to live. Life in a small space ship would be too difficult. Even in the early days of space travel Space Stations were spoken of.
The Americans were the first to try. They built a station called Skylab in May 1973. It was used as a test for future space stations. It was left to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere when it was finished in July 1979.
The Russians attempted a number of stations too eventually building Salyut 7 in April 1982. It was used until February 1991.
The two greatest success stories have been the Russian Sports Station “Mir” and the International Space Station. Further information on these can be found on their pages.
China is expected to launch its first space station named Tiangong 1 in the first half of 2011. This would make China the third country to launch a space station. China will be launching two more space labs called Tiangong 2 and Tiangong 3 before 2016. It will then launch a 30-ton space station by 2022.
A company called Bigelow Aerospace is currently working on developing commercial inflatable habitat modules. These are small stations that are easy to transport and can be inflated while in space.
Another company is also planning to build a space hotel called Galactic Suite. It was planned to be working by 2012 but this now looks highly unlikely.