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Thanks to the hard work of companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin, space tourism is well on its way to becoming a reality. Now, California-based Orbital Assembly Corporation (OAC) envisions a chance for galactic visitors to extend their "out-of-the-world" experience by checking into a luxurious hotel in low Earth orbit.
The 650-foot-wide (198 meter) Ferris-wheel-like Voyager Space Station (VSS) will comprise two rings connected by spokes. The inner circle will be fitted with spacecraft docking stations for guests. The outer ring will house the rooms, restaurants, bars, gyms, and scientific research labs. The solar-powered hotel will spin at speeds high enough to create artificial gravity, ensuring occupants a comfortable stay. When completed, it will have room for up to 400 people. OAC hopes to attract not just tourists but also scientists, astronauts on long-distance missions, and even some semi-permanent residents.
While the idea is intriguing, making VSS a reality will take time. The team is currently building modules for a smaller prototype ring. The modules will be assembled in zero-gravity using semi-automatic robotic tools made for the purpose. Once completed, OAC engineers will attempt to create artificial gravity similar to what Mars has — about 40 percent that of Earth.
Even if the prototype is wildly successful, transporting the VSS modules to space will cost tens of billions of dollars. However, OAC, which expects to charge $5 million per person for each 3-day stay, is confident they will recoup the expense. Though the cost may seem excessive, it is cheap compared to the $55 million it costs to stay on the ISS. Besides, guests at the Voyager Station will be living in the utmost luxury.
"You're going to have the top chefs making really, really good food," Orbital CEO John Blincow told the Washington Post. "And when you pay $5 million to go someplace, it's not going to be burgers and fries ... We want to have Sting come up and play, and Beyoncé. There'll be two shows every night. … That's part of the entertainment package."
Visitors will also be able to participate in recreational activities that are not possible on Earth. Among the proposed ideas are zero gravity basketball games. Blincow says, "When you jump in the air [in space], you jump five times higher." Also under consideration are spacewalks to allow visitors to enjoy clear views of Earth and space. If everything goes according to plan, the company plans to start construction in 2026 and welcome the first visitors to the VSS in 2027. Meanwhile, those eager to be among the first can save their spots for a small fee.
Resources: Space.com, Newatlas.com, orbitalassembly.com