While it may sound like something from a Star Trek episode, Airwise News reported on Saturday, October 2, based on a Reuters dispatch, that Energia, a company owned by the Russian government, plans to build the first hotel in outer space. They are backed by a venture capital start up company, Orbital Technologies, which will raise investments and market the services.
The Russian solution is an earth orbiting space station that would house up to 7 very well heeled space tourists. That concept does not sound so far fetched, considering that British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, who owns Virgin Atlantic Airways and other thriving companies, has formed Virgin Galactic, which is aiming to test space launch flights in 2011.
According to Alexander Derechin, Energia’s deputy chief designer, “Commercial space ships are being built around the world, they will need to fly somewhere.” Mr. Derechin claims to have lined up financial pledges and signed contracts for the project in the amount of $100 million to $1 billion U.S. dollars. He added, “I do not think we will be able to complete it before 2015 but I do not think we should wait much beyond that. The competition is growing and we need to hurry up.”
Indeed, there is competition for space lodging. Bigelow Aerospace, a Las Vegas-based firm headed by hôtelier Robert Bigelow, also plans to build a space complex. Las Vegas projects tend to be imaginative and on a grand scale. But they are also not alone.
Galactic Suite Design, founded by Spanish architect Xavier Claramunt, along with 4Frontiers Corporation, is aiming to build settlements on Mars, in addition to an orbiting hotel, for which they have secured $3 billion in funding from an anonymous individual. Joining that project, according to the Discovery Channel, is Aerospace Research and Technology Centre (CTAE), a Spanish nonprofit foundation that provides technology services in the aerospace sector. Fourty-three persons have already reserved their rooms.
The Galactic Suite design calls for three modular rooms, 23 by 13 feet, each housing two guests. They already have 40,000 potential customers with the financial means to book one of these earth orbiting rooms. But this is not exactly budget accommodations. A 3-day stay is expected to cost $4.5 million. Guests will need to train eight weeks for their outer space experience, at an additional $3 million cost. Even at such out of this world prices, there are plenty of takers by people who know and enjoy the meaning of “living large”. For that money, guests will get 15 sunrises and sunsets every 24 hours, although Happy Hour imbibing will not be included. In fact, space tourists will be wearing Velcro suits, allowing them to stick to their room’s walls. While in space, traditional showers are out of the question. Engineers are concentrating their efforts on improved vacuum type toilets. There will also be scientific experiments in which each guest can participate.
These ambitious plans may sound like just pipe dreams, but there is serious money and reputations backing them up. Just as jet travel has become a common experience connecting the far reaches of our planet, these more creative destinations will someday also be realized.
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