A new space race is on, and this time it's to see who can build the galaxy's best bed-and-breakfast. A Barcelona-based firm called Galactic Suite Limited claims it will be the first to build a space hotel, opening its $3 billion Galactic Suite to the (very rich) public in 2012.
Founded by Spanish architect Xavier Claramunt, Galactic Suite Limited has attracted potential investors from several countries, including a company called 4Frontiers Corporation that eventually hopes to found settlements on Mars. A still-anonymous individual has pledged to provide most of the $3 billion required to build the hotel. Galactic Suite Limited is also working with the Aerospace Research and Technology Centre (CTAE), a Spanish nonprofit foundation that provides "technology services in the aerospace sector" [source: CTAE]. Besides its work on Galactic Suite, CTAE is engaged in several other space-tourism related projects, including aircraft software, rovers and a study about the feasibility of a spaceport [source: CTAE].
The hotel's design calls for it to be made up of three pod-like rooms, each measuring 23 feet by 13 feet and housing up to two guests. Each room will be transported into space via shuttle -- hence the pod-like design, which allows it to fit inside a shuttle's cargo bay. Observers frequently compare the combined structure of the three connected pods to the molecule models found in many science classrooms.
Galactic Suite Limited says that it has 40,000 potential customers worldwide -- the number of people who they think could afford the experience [source: Yahoo News].
So just how much does it cost? On the next page, we'll take a look at the hotel's facilities and pricing, as well as possible obstacles to building space hotels.
The Space Hotel Experience
Should the Galactic Suite hotel open as expected, a three-day stay will set you back at least $4 million (3 million euros). To prepare for the trip, participants spend eight weeks training on an island in the Caribbean, the cost of which is included in the $3 million fee. Following the training, a space shuttle, possibly launched from Galactic Suite's private spaceport on the island, will ferry the guests to the hotel.
Once onboard the hotel, guests will wear Velcro suits that allow them to stick to the rooms' walls. The hotel's orbit will take it around the Earth in only 80 minutes, allowing guests to see 15 sunrises a day [source: Yahoo News]. Besides spending three days ogling sunrises, tourists will also help with scientific experiments. An escape rocket will be attached to the outside of the hotel.
Some of the details regarding the hotel's facilities remain unclear. Claramunt said that the company is still tackling the problem of bathrooms, specifically toilets. Instead of traditional showers -- which don't work in a weightless environment -- Galactic Suite will employ a spa filled with water bubbles drifting through the air.
As How Space Tourism Works explains, numerous companies are seeking to be the first vacation provider in space. In June 2007, Bigelow Aerospace launched into space its second miniature prototype of an inflatable space hotel. Virgin Airways founder and noted philanthropist Richard Branson is banking on his Virgin Galactic company.
Eventually, someone will bring tourists to space, though it may be farther off than we think. Galactic Suite's projected 2012 opening seems almost impossible when one considers the enormous infrastructure investment required. Transporting supplies, getting reusable launch vehicles, fielding potential government regulation and building a spaceport require huge amounts of money, expertise and careful testing. Some of the technology exists, but can it be put together within five years? (Galactic Suite made its 2012 prediction in the summer of 2007.) Then there's the concern about whether the companies involved can justify or offset the vast amounts of greenhouse gases produced by their rocket flights.
For more information about space hotels, space tourism and related topics, please check out the links on the next page.
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More Great Links
- "About CTAE." Aerospace Research and Technology Centre. http://www.ctae.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=26&Itemid=44
- "R+D Projects." Aerospace Research and Technology Centre. http://www.ctae.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=107&Itemid=104
- "Spanish venture aims to build space hotel." MSNBC. Aug. 10, 2007. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20216344/
- Atkins, William. "Welcome to the space hotel Galactic Suite." iTWire. Aug. 13, 2007. http://www.itwire.com/content/view/13977/1066/
- Gardner, David. "Hotel Galactic: First-ever 'space hotel' to be launched in 'five years' - with astronomical rates." Daily Mail. Aug. 13, 2007. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/worldnews.html?in_article_id=474898&in_page_id=1811
- Gray, Richard. "Space hotel to offer guests 18 sunrises a day." The Telegraph. Aug. 12, 2007. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2007/08/12/scihotel112.xml
- Harter, Pascale. "Fly me to the moon: space hotel sees 2012 opening." Reuters. Yahoo News. Aug. 10, 2007. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070810/tc_nm/space_hotel_dc
- Spotts, Peter N. "Space tourism industry is lifting off." The Christian Science Monitor. July 26, 2007. http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0726/p03s02-usgn.html
- Thompson, Andrea. "Space Hotel Slated to Open in 2012." Space.com. Aug. 11, 2007. http://www.space.com/news/070811_space_hotel.html