‘I’d like a room with an Earth view, please’
Would you take a holiday in a space hotel? The world’s first orbiting resort is scheduled to open in 2027, but some people feel their money would be better spent nearer to home.
“Good evening, and welcome to the Space Hotel,” says the receptionist brightly. “How was your journey today?”
The newly arrived couple exchange a glance. “A three-hour delay leaving Cape Canaveral,” says Tom. “Beats me why they put the space centre in a place with so many thunderstorms. We’ll be glad to take the weight off our feet.”
“But,” Faye adds with a grin, “I guess that’s happened already.”
The receptionist smiles indulgently. The hotel has only been open a few months, but he must have heard that joke about its low gravity a hundred times. Maybe five years from now – in 2032 – guests will start to realise that it is not as hilarious as they think.
“If you’d like to follow me, I’ll show you your suite,” he says. “The robot will take your bags.”
The robot’s face lights up. “Welcome, madam,” it says. “Welcome, sir. How was your journey today?”
The receptionist floats away down the corridor, pointing out the facilities along the way. “That’s the Restaurant At the End of the Universe on the left: dinner is served from 7pm Earth time. On the right is the cinema: tonight’s movie is Apollo 13.”
Tom and Faye’s room is surprisingly large. It is expensively decorated with ultra-cool furniture. But the best thing is the view from its windows: the blue rim of the Earth against a backdrop of countless stars. “One for every pound we’re spending on this holiday,” jokes Tom.
“Let’s float around the place and get our bearings,” says Faye.
It is not easy. Even if you were standing upright, the layout of the Voyager Class space station would be confusing, since it is made up of a series of rotating rings. In this, it follows Wernher von Braun’s idea of a wheel spinning to create artificial gravity.
Through the windows of the Arthur C Clarke Bar, they can glimpse some of the other 23 modules attached to the outer ring. “Each measures 20 metres by 12,” explains the barman. “Some supply the station’s basic needs, such as air, water and power. The one with the NASA logo is for space research – and the one with the SpaceX logo is Elon Musk’s private villa. They’re all connected by a high-speed railway.”
But the leisure facilities are what really appeal to Tom and Faye. They include the Round The World Spa, where you can have a massage lasting the 90 minutes it takes the station to orbit the Earth. There is even a gym where you can play weightless basketball.
Dinner is not the best Tom and Faye have ever eaten. The first course is “vichystars” leek and potato soup which they have to suck with straws out of a sealed bag. The next is dried beef (“grown in our own laboratory”) with dried tomatoes. Pudding is Mars bar ice cream.
Afterwards, there is a chance to meet some of the other guests. “Just think of it,” says one. “Here we are on the largest object that humans have ever put into space! Are you guys going to take a starwalk tomorrow?”
“Definitely,” says Faye.
“Hm,” says Tom. “I think I’ll wait and see what the weather’s like.”
Would you take a holiday in a space hotel?
Some say, yes – without hesitation. It would be the holiday of a lifetime – the rocket journey itself would be totally thrilling. The hotel would have the most amazing views anyone has ever seen, and there would also be the fun of floating around in a low-gravity environment. If you did a spacewalk as well, it would be a totally mind-blowing experience.
Others point out that the journey to get there would be extremely dangerous and uncomfortable. And what would you do once you arrived? You would soon become blasé about the view, the food could not possibly be as good as at home and being weightless is bad for the body. You could go anywhere you wanted on Earth – and stay as long as you wanted – for considerably less money.
- Do the best holidays involve an element of risk?
- Is it wrong for top scientists to give their expertise to commercial projects rather than ones which benefit everybody?
- Imagine that your school has been transferred to a space station. Draw a detailed plan of its layout.
- Write a science-fiction story about a group of space tourists who find they cannot get home again.
Some People Say...
“A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of hell.”George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950), Irish playwright
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- It is generally agreed that the Voyager Class space station is a hugely ambitious project. The first stage is to build and launch a small prototype to test the idea, which will probably take two years. The actual space station will be built in orbit around the Earth, using a robot named STAR (short for Structure Truss Assembly Robot). The founder of Gateway Foundation, the company behind it, says that it will be “the next Industrial Revolution”.
- What do we not know?
- One main area of debate is around how much a stay at the hotel is likely to cost. Space travel has become much cheaper with the development of reusable rockets: it used to cost $8,000 per kg to launch something into orbit, but that has sunk to $2,000 and will probably go lower still. It is this that has made the new space station possible. Nevertheless, it will probably cost many millions of dollars to stay there.
- Cape Canaveral
- The site in Florida used for US space launches, chosen because its nearness to the equator allows rockets to take extra velocity from the rotation of the Earth and because they are likely to crash into the sea if something goes wrong.
- The Restaurant At the End of the Universe
- The sequel to Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
- Apollo 13
- Based on the true story of a mission to the Moon which went wrong when part of the spacecraft exploded. The astronauts were lucky to get back alive.
- Wernher von Braun
- A German scientist who helped develop rockets responsible for many casualties in World War Two.
- Arthur C Clarke
- A British science-fiction writer who predicted key developments such as communications satellites.
- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, responsible for the US space programme.
- A space exploration company which developed the reusable Falcon 9 rocket and plans to send the first humans to Mars.
- Elon Musk
- The owner of SpaceX.
- Leek and potato soup is sometimes called by the French name vichyssoise.