A Houston-based company said this week it plans to open the “first luxury hotel in space” by late 2021.
Orion Span’s compact Aurora Station – at 35ft-by-14ft its interior will be comparable to that of a Gulfstream jet, the company said – is projected to accommodate four travellers and two crew members for 12-day stays 200 miles above the earth. Guests will be charged $9.5m each, or about $791,666 a night. Refundable deposits of $80,000 can now be made online.
The founder Frank Bunger – described by his own company as “a serial entrepreneur and technology start-up executive” – told Bloomberg: “We want to get people into space because it’s the final frontier for our civilization.”
In a press release, Orion Span said it would take “what was historically a 24-month training regimen to prepare travellers to visit a space station and streamline it to three months, at a fraction of the cost”.
Customers would subsequently understand basic spaceflight, orbital mechanics and life in pressurized environments in space, the company said.
The company said travellers would then “enjoy the exhilaration of zero gravity … gaze at the northern and southern aurora through the many windows, soar over their hometowns, take part in research experiments such as growing food while in orbit (which they can take home with them as the ultimate souvenir), revel in a virtual reality experience on the holodeck, and stay in touch or live stream with their loved ones back home via high-speed wireless internet access.”
They would also, it said, “be treated to a hero’s welcome home”.
Bunger said the project had been made possible in part because “almost every week, there’s another rocket-launch company that’s starting up with a new way to get to orbit cheaper, faster, better”.
A spokeswoman told Bloomberg the company was assessing potential funding sources but would not disclose how much it wanted to raise.
Orion Span would not be the first operation to offer rides into space. A number of wealthy travelers have flown to the International Space Station (ISS) with the Russian space programme – which said recently it too plans to open a “space hotel” in 2022.
Dennis Tito, an American businessman, took the first “space tourism” flight in 2001, visiting the ISS for a reported $20m. He was followed by, among others, the software entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth and the first female space tourist, Prodea Systems co-founder Anousheh Ansari. Charles Simonyi, a former Microsoft executive, has visited the space station twice.
“It is amazing how [the space station] appears from the blackness of the sky,” Simonyi said in 2007. “It was very, very dramatic. It was like a big stage set, a fantastic production of some incredible opera or modern play.”
Last year, the SpaceX founder Elon Musk said his company planned to send two private citizens on a trip around the moon. The pair had paid a “significant deposit”, he said.
Jeff Bezos of Amazon and the Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson aim to give tourists short rides to the edge of space, about 60 miles up. Branson has reportedly signed up celebrities including Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Katy Perry to take the $250,000 ride.
Bunger, who announced his project at the Space 2.0 summit in San Jose, California, said Orion Span’s clients would be passionate about space and astronomical study.
“We’re not selling a ‘Hey let’s go to the beach’ equivalent in space,” he said. “We’re selling the experience of being an astronaut. You reckon that there are people who are willing to pay to have that experience.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010