The idea of Space Tourism feels like something out of a futuristic sci-fi film but the reality is that its been around for almost 20 years. Some may recall American businessman, Dennis Tito, becoming the first civilian tourist to visit the International Space Station in 2001. Tito’s trip to space cost him a colossal 20 million dollars, meaning at that price, going into space would remain a dream only to be experienced through films and stories for most of us.
Now with the expansion of commercial space companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, space tourism has come a long way from the 20 million dollar trip in 2001. Commercial companies like these have excelled in the testing and production of space tourist vehicles and have estimated costs could drop to $200,000 in the near future. Understandably still a considerable amount of money but it puts the current cost of tourist space travel at 1% of what is was just under two decades ago.
There are two different types of space flight on offer for private spaceflight, suborbital and orbital, each have vastly different costs and experiences.
Suborbital spaceflight aims to reach an altitude of over 300,000 feet, reaching the Karman line, which is the benchmark to define where outer space begins. Currently there are two major players competing in this field, Virgin Galactic, part of Richard Branson's empire and Blue Origin, run by Amazon’s billionaire founder Jeff Bezos. Both of the companies’ systems are rocket-powered and capable of carrying up to six passengers on a flight. Virgin has flown 5 staff members already during test flights and plan to fly founder Richard Branson to mark the beginning of Virgin Galactic’s commercial service. Blue origin has still not flown any passengers but has completed 12 successful test runs. Both companies will be targeting high net worth individuals with Virgin already selling 600 seats for between $200,000 and $250,000 and Blue Origin expected to do the same.
Unlike suborbital spaceflight which gives passengers a few minutes in space at an altitude of 300,000 feet, orbital spaceflight goes much further than this. Passengers are likely to spend between a few days in space up to over a week at an altitude of over 1.3 million feet. The final quarter of 2021 is likely to be a huge for tourists in orbital spaceflight, with two major companies Space Adventures and Axiom Space announcing up to nine seats to orbit available for purchase by either individuals or organizations.
Whilst we may be closer to achieving regular space travel and a booming space tourism industry but what’s next?
Plans involving orbital spaceflight will require tourists to stay at the International Space Station, the only habitable structure in space at the moment but many companies are looking beyond this. Space hotels are likely to be the next venture for many to support the space tourism sector. One company, Orion Span, has developed plans for the first-ever “affordable” luxury space hotel called ‘Aurora station’. Orion Span is looking to launch in 2021 and start welcoming guests in 2022. This doesn’t mean the opportunity will be available to many of us with the expected cost of a 12-day stay on the ‘Aurora station’ coming to $9.5 million, quite literally a price that’s out of this world. Still, that's a lot less than orbital tourists have paid in the past, as all of the seven private citizens that took trips to ISS each payed an estimated $20 million to $40 million per trip.
One small step for hotels… one giant leap for hotel life. Not only are space companies looking to venture into space hotels but giant hotel booking company Hotels.com. Launching the first online travel site, ‘offering future hotel bookings in space and reward earthlings with the ultimate out of this world travel escape’. Featuring space robes and slippers, intergalactic room service, solar lobbies, holographic wake-up calls, meteor mini bar, zero gravity space deck, pool and bar, which have all been imagined through beautiful renders of a space hotel on their galactic booking website.
Whilst space hotels like this may be a long way off until then there’s plenty of options to have an out of this world experience in one of these space themed hotels. Here’s our top five:
The Space Odyssey Suite at Sunset Inn & Suites, Clinton, Illinois, USA
The website says : Experience the feeling of flying among the stars as you enjoy the comfort of your Serenity Latex Mattress, specially designed for your spaceship bed. The triangular whirlpool bath glows softly under the stars from a multitude of different galaxies as you enjoy watching movies on your Plasma Screen Television. The DVD provided ensures you can watch all the Star Wars movies you’re able to while staying with us.
The steam shower is equipped with the “Raindancer Shower” which is almost as good as having a masseuse in the room with you. Your wet bar comes complete with a microwave, refrigerator and coffeemaker so you will not have to leave your spaceship until you are done exploring the universe and are ready to return to Earth! Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to enjoy your outer space experience and boldly go where no others have gone before.
Outer space room with Seaview balcony at Gold Coast Hotel, Hong Kong
The website says: Journey to a different galaxy in the Outer Space Room, where different planets hang from a ceiling of stars and a full space mural encourages a voyage for both the young and the young at heart. Little guests can sleep and play in their miniature bed, while adults can seek much-deserved rest in a giant crater bed.
Fantasy Land Hotel, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
The website says: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Blast-off! Explore the universe in our new Space Theme room and enjoy the amenities.
Pengheng Space Capsules Hotel, Shenzhen, China
Offering what is likely the most of the this world experience, this hotel pushes the boundaries of design and futurism. This exciting space themed hotel has done away with rooms and features a sleeping capsule mimicking life in space. Not only this, the hotel is staffed entirely by robots so maybe the designs fromHotel.com aren’t so farfetched after all!
The Executive suite at the Kameha Grand Zurich Hotel, Switzerland