“The venture into space is meaningless unless it coincides with a certain interior expansion, an ever-growing universe within, to correspond with the far flight of the galaxies our telescopes follow from without.” –LOREN EISELEY
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel through space, or imagined the experience of walking around a surface other than Earth’s? If so, you are not alone. Outer space has held a fascination for humanity like no other; its vastness, its unimaginable number of stars and all the mysteries it contains compel us to fantasize and explore its wonders.
But until recently, when a lucky few, with the support of massive governmental funds, were able to travel above the Earth, space has been out of our grasp. Since the dawn of consciousness, it has served only as a canvas onto which we have projected our wildest fantasies. From benevolent aliens that arrive to help mankind, to alien exploiters that are the mirror image of humanity’s own greed, not to mention nearly every conceivable idea in between. They have all been inspired by this amazing and mysterious space.
The time is getting close to when even the average citizen will be able to partake in the space experience and see the earth from far above. Several private companies, with the help of their governments, are pursuing this This vertigo-inducing concept. Of course, the first tourists to go on one of these new missions will be paying exorbitant fees, but they will also be blazing the trail for future travelers to follow suit. And then we’ll see the emergence of space hotels and space vacation structures on the moon!
THE HISTORY OF SPACE TOURISM
The idea of space tourism has been around since practically forever. In 1687, Isaac Newton hypothesized that a cannon powerful enough could fire an object so fast that it would fall into orbit around the earth. In the nineteenth century, French novelist Jules Verne (of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea fame) picked up on Newton’s idea in From the Earth to the Moon, in which a cannon would shoot visitors around the moon and back. But it wasn’t until the early part of the last century that the idea took hold in earnest. This was because practical physics had advanced at an alarming rate. Suddenly, it looked as if going on vacation in space was near on the horizon. But it wasn’t meant to be, as two world wars and a global depression sidelined much research.
Like many technologies, the first true rockets were invented for military use. After numerous early failures, Germany developed the V-2 A4 rocket with the intent of using it as a self-contained bomb during World War II. Unlike the smart missiles of today, the V2 A4 rockets, targeted at London, landed randomly and caused a great deal of anxiety, although they were not particularly effective. The V-2 A4 was, however, the first rocket to reach space.
And with that, the imaginations of artists, inventors, mathematicians and scientists were all set on fire with a drive to visit the stars. And while the inventors, mathematicians and scientists all set to work developing the most practical methods of reaching space to establish habitats there, the minds of the artists were already light years ahead, as the release of countless short stories, novels and films suggest. But, in time, even the artists began to rein in their imaginations to fit reality.
In Stanley Kubric’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey, based on the book by Arthur C. Clark, the human ability to inhabit space was closely aligned with the technology of the time. The realistic depiction of the space environment unnerved some people. For instance, space is a vacuum and sound does not carry (contrast this with later science fiction movies where spaceships whiz by each with their unique sound signature). And, in space, the weightlessness caused by the lack of direct gravity is often disorienting.
Fast forward to today where Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is expected to take its first tourists into orbit. Virgin’s flight plan is simple: a one and a half hour trip into space for a nominal fee of $250,000.00. And that is without any carry-on luggage, much less checked baggage. Who would pay that kind of money for such a short and dangerous journey into space? Well, so far, more than 600 customers have plunked down well over $80 million in deposits. And don’t count out Elon Musk and his ambitious SpaceX program. The mission that Elon Musk has assigned to SpaceX is to develop the means of enabling people to live on other planets. Right now, thousands of engineers and scientists are supporting these programs.
Of course, the next step following space tourism flights will likely be the long-imagined floating space hotels. Much like the International Space Station, but with more accommodations and amenities, space hotels will be tourist destinations – diverse menus and ultra-modern space spas included!
In fact, Orion Span is working on just that concept. Orion Span is a U.S.-based start-up whose mission statement is to “make space accessible to all.” With an ambitious schedule of launching their space hotel by 2021 and welcoming their first visitors in 2022, Orion Span is spearheading the space hotel concept for the rest of the world. And, if you thought the short orbital flight was expensive, then sit your self down because a two-week stay aboard this space hotel will cost $10 million for 12 days in orbit. Still feel up for it?
Lunar building block 3D printed from simulated moon dust
Rumor has it that around the year 1958, the Hilton hotel founder, or, rather, one of his sons, Barron Hilton, tinkered with the idea of a Hilton hotel on the moon. If the story is true, then the timing would seem about right since just a year earlier on October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the very first man-made object into orbit: Sputnik, catching the United States by surprise and starting the famous “Space Race” between the US and the Soviets.
Of course, building a moon hotel is a bit fanciful now. Just consider the years of effort and research that worldwide government science programs have put into orbital habitats. Our orbital experiments began with sputnik, then with animals, and then with people orbiting the Earth for exceptionally short periods before returning. All this was necessary because early space exploration had a lot of questions to answer prior to sending people into the cosmos. The first habitats on the moon will almost certainly be research stations sponsored by government entities, possibly in collaboration with private entities. The reason being that the moon still has plenty of unknowns to account for prior to building habitats.
The first hurdle to building any moon-based habitat is the building material. There’s no lumber on the moon, and even if a hardware store shot a few loads of plywood up there, it would be useless. So, what to use, then? Well, it is increasingly looking like moon habitations will be constructed out of local material: moon dust, to be exact. And scientists around the world are working to solve this very problem. Moon dust used in conjunction with 3D printing technology may prove to be the solution to building robust and roomy structures on our nearest celestial neighbor.
Building habitats on Mars will more than likely follow a similar pattern, with scientific and research labs arriving first. The use of local materials will form the basis of the secondary phase of Mars buildings, as the first habitations for the first arrivals will be the ships themselves. The farther away the destination is, the more complex the logistics, so it will likely be many years after science labs arrive that we will possibly see the establishment of “Hotel Mars” and some fine dining establishments.
THE PROBLEM WITH LUGGAGE: WHAT DO YOU PACK FOR A TRIP TO SPACE?
An 18 year old astronaut in training has designed the first luggage for space tourists!
For anyone familiar with planning for long trips, figuring out what to bring is a very important question. Organizing all the necessities is a frustrating and time-consuming process. Once ordered, however, the second question arises: How am I going to pack all this stuff? And then the process of elimination begins where what one thinks is absolutely necessary is separated from what is deemed unnecessary. Even that seems like too much, but it’s shoved into suitcases and rucksacks anyway. And, finally, the third question: What am I missing? Unfortunately, the answer to that usually occurs in transit when it is too late.
And that’s just for local travel. Now consider space travel, where every gram of weight must be accounted for. And this isn’t simply for cost; it’s to ensure the mission is successful. Using current technology, it takes roughly 10 pounds of fuel to place 1 pound into space. And you think airlines are strict about extra baggage!
The luggage you take will be subject to the laws of physics and the rules of the company operating the space vehicle. What is likely to be the norm is an allocated weight of luggage per person with a surcharge placed on any additional items — and expect that surcharge to be heavy (pun intended). It is also likely that the space tourism company will already have clothing and toiletries designed for the trip and personalized to their clients’ specific needs. This would solve several important questions: First, the company would be able to precisely calculate the payload that they are dealing with; second, the space tourists would be relieved of the luggage problem; and third, save for the products left back on the moon’s space station for reuse, all clients would return to Earth with official, authentic memorabilia of their excursion.
THIS IS THE FUTURE
It may be too soon to start packing for your mooneymoon (coining that.. also, lunymoon?), but one thing is certain: People will one day be able to go into orbit or land on the moon, and it won’t be an out-of-the-ordinary event. Just like the Apollo and Space Shuttle missions, people will simply accept these travels as routine. Until then, there are a lot of questions to be answered!