While the concept of space tourism may sound ludicrous, plans to launch people into space as a vacation vs. a vocation are well underway.
John Blincow, chief executive of Orbital Assembly, told The Washington Post that the coronavirus pandemic may ultimately delay the construction start date from its original 2025 projection. However, he believes it could take just a year or two to assemble Voyager Station, the commercial space station that will house the hotel.
“It’s going to happen fast when it starts,” Blincow said. “And we believe it’s going to happen a lot, too, even before we finish the first one. We have buyers for other stations because they’re very, very lucrative.”
Tourists will need to undergo some training (both safety and physical) before boarding their SpaceX Starship shuttle to Voyager Station, which is designed to accommodate 280 eight guests and 112 crew members. That will include people there for space tourism alone, scientists conducting low-gravity research and service industry professionals doing what they do best — but in space. These included world-renowned chefs Blincow plans to work with who will have the chance to build out (electric and fire-free) kitchens for the space station.
“It’s a historic moment,” Blincow said. “You’re going to have the top chefs making really, really good food. And when you pay $5 million to go someplace, it’s not going to be burgers and fries.”
Blincow isn’t speaking in hyperbole. A trip to the first space hotel should cost $5 million for about 3½ days orbiting the Earth. That sum may sound extreme, but it’s exponentially cheaper than other up-and-coming opportunities for private citizens — for example, the first would-be spaceflight crew made up of private citizens each paid $55 million a ticket for Axiom Space’s trip up to the International Space Station for eight days.
Voyager Station’s mission is to accommodate those people expressing interest to go, and provide an experience more comfortable than what the International Space has to offer.
The rotating structure will have artificial gravity, so tourists won’t float through the place like goo in a lava lamp or experience “moon-face” — the head pressure-inducing, sinus-clogging effect caused by microgravity’s impact on the body’s fluid distribution. With their fluids where they’re supposed to be, hotel guests will be able to sleep, eat, shower and use the restroom normally, Blincow said.
That doesn’t mean staying at the space hotel will feel completely normal. Because you’re in lunar gravity, “when you jump in the air, you jump five times higher,” Blincow said.
That jumping can be done in Voyager Station’s gymnasium, an area where space tourists can work out or play games. Blincow said the gymnasium will also be an entertainment venue for rock stars and talk-show hosts.
“We want to have Sting come up and play, and Beyoncé,” he said. “There’ll be two shows every night. … That’s part of the entertainment package.”
But the actual star of the show will be the opportunity for hotel guests to leave Voyager Station and do a spacewalk. Blincow said astronauts have told him over the years that the experience is so incredible that they don’t want to come back inside.
“There’s nothing between you and the universe but the face plate,” Blincow said. “Going out there and looking at the whole solar system and the Earth from the outside, it’s going to be an extraordinary moment.”
Blincow said the chance of the everyman staying in a space hotel shouldn’t seem like a reality far, far away. The hope is to eventually get the price down to be more attainable to the middle class.
“When you and I can look forward to buying a ticket and going [to space], that’s the golden age of space travel,” Blincow said.
Even at the current earth-shattering price tag, travelers are eager for space tourism. More than 600 people have placed deposits, topping $80 million in total, for Virgin Galactic’s upcoming space opportunities, and thousands more are on a waitlist.
Roman & Erica, a travel company for ultrawealthy clients, started working with Axiom Space in 2018 to find people interested in paying the gargantuan fare for space tourism. Before the pandemic, the travel company’s co-founder, Roman Chiporukha, said his clients laughed off the opportunity. But once 2020 showed them how unpredictable life can be, the offer didn’t seem so crazy anymore.
“Now the conversations I’m having with people is, 'Oh, that’s very interesting. How long is the training? Where do I need to train? What’s the deposit like? Do I need to pay the $55 million in advance or is it in tranches?” said Chiporukha, whose clients pay annual membership prices ranging from $62,500 to $180,000.
“This is only going to grow and expand and become more interesting.”
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