Added to the list of incredible technological achievements that will rocket us into the future will be a hotel in space by 2016, according to Orbital Technologies. The Russian company says it will be allowing people to enter Earth’s orbit and stay in one of four comfortably opulent hotel rooms where they can gaze down at the Earth below and realize that all their problems, indeed everything they ever knew is a world away. But what challenges will arise when we move space travel into the private sector and away from hard scientific research?
The incredibly ambitious expedition to the stars will begin moving tourists from a world on the ground to the heights of space as soon as the space station itself goes up. Chief executive of Orbital Technologies, Sergei Kostenko revealed in an interview with the BBC an increase in the amount of comfort tourists could expect in the future as they floated in space. Before 2016, tourists will have had to stow away on private ships and make it to the stars on the International Space Station on Russian rocket ships. But with the new program, people could be moved into space and spend a romantic getaway gazing down at a view most astronauts previously had to train for years to see.
And private companies wishing to do scientific research in space could also add their efforts to the list of prospective clients. These experiments could be conducted in the comfort of the space stations rooms or in special laboratories onboard. Energia is the company Orbital Technologies is contracting the design of the space station out to, and plans put forward suggest the space station would have a docking and storage platform and a common area with sleeping pods adjacent to it. And though it is not officially announced yet, judging from the plans it appears there are points on the space station where additions could be added – perhaps for more facilities or private rooms.
But is it a good idea to begin sending tourists into space? Previously space programs had a rigorous training program that ensured astronauts would be in top condition for the escape velocity required to reach orbit. And while astronauts describe the process of going into space as intense, there is no word on what medical tests there will be to ensure medical emergencies don’t arise. An additional hurdle will be the significant psychological testing that may be overlooked by a private company working to get untrained people into space for profit. The sensation of claustrophobia may be an incident waiting to happen onboard the ship.
But with this new way of life sneaking up on our planet of going off to space, are these risks really enough to stop mankind from once again reaching for the stars and exploring the reaches of space as well as their own capabilities? And isn’t space travel in itself a symbol for humanity’s desire to achieve and progress in ways that dwarf our previous Herculean triumphs?
There’s still no word on how much a ticket to the international space hotel may be, but the price tag is expected to be enormous. If the cost to build and maintain the station are any indicator, tickets may sell for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Of course as competing hotels are built and new technologies to get into space are developed, this price will inevitably drop within our lifetimes if the project is successful.