A venture called Galactic Suite says it wants to open a hotel in space in 2012, but it's not yet clear exactly how much backing is behind the design concept.
Galactic Suite’s Barcelona-based architects say guests would pay $4 million each for a three-day stay aboard the orbital equivalent of a three-bedroom boutique hotel.
Before the flight, guests would get eight weeks of intensive training at a space camp on a tropical island, company director Xavier Claramunt told Reuters. Then the tourists would ride an private shuttle into orbit. Hotel guests would see the sun rise 15 times a day and use Velcro suits to crawl around their pod rooms by sticking themselves to the walls like Spiderman.
Claramunt said the hotel’s joined-up pod structure, which makes it look like a model of molecules, was dictated by the fact that each pod room had to fit inside a rocket to be taken into space.
“It’s the bathrooms in zero gravity that are the biggest challenge,” says Claramunt. “How to accommodate the more intimate activities of the guests is not easy.”
To take a zero-gravity shower, the guests would enter a spa room in which cleansing bubbles of water float around. When they're not admiring the view from their portholes, they will take part in scientific experiments on space travel.
At the end of the stay, the shuttle would bring guests back down to Galactic Suite's spaceport. “There is fear associated with going into space,” Claramunt said. “That’s why the shuttle rocket will remain fixed to the space hotel for the duration of the guests’ stay, so they know they can get home again.”
Claramunt, a former aerospace engineer, said the Galactic Suite concept began as a hobby. He told Reuters that a space enthusiast agreed to provide most of the $3 billion needed to build the hotel — but he declined to name the backer.
Galactic Suite's Web site says another supporter of the venture is Florida-based 4Frontiers Corp., a company that cites Mars settlement as its top goal. A representative of that company declined to discuss the project Friday but said the company's co-founder and chief executive officer, Mark Homnick, was on his way back to Florida from Barcelona.
CTAE, a Barcelona-based aerospace center, was also listed as a supporter. Claramunt told Reuters that his venture was in talks with private investors from Japan, the United States and the United Arab Emirates.
Claramunt said the market for orbital space travel could be substantial. “We have calculated that there are 40,000 people in the world who could afford to stay at the hotel. Whether they will want to spend money on going into space, we just don’t know.”
Galactic Suite's plans depend on the development of a reliable, privately funded system to deliver payloads and people to orbit — and space industry observers say it would take hundreds of millions of dollars and years of work to perfect such a system.
Even if Galactic Suite follows through on its plan, it won't be the only venture aiming to put hotels in orbit: Nevada-based Bigelow Aerospace has already launched two inflatable prototypes for a privately built space station, and is planning to send up its first habitable module by 2012. California-based Space Island Group also has been working on a space hotel concept, but that venture has not announced a launch timetable.
This report includes information from Reuters and MSNBC.com.