BEST HOTEL IN THE GALAXY – BUT WHERE IS THE ATMOSPHERE?
Most people’s idea of a weekend getaway might be a break in the Cotswolds, Devon or perhaps Provence. A select group of well-heeled adventurers, however, may soon be able to aim higher: three nights in a hotel in space.
The new breed of tourists will see the Sun rise 80 times during their stay, the Spanish tour operator says, but it admits that the bill for the journey of a lifetime will be an astronomical £2.7 million.
According to Galactic Suite Space Resort, would-be stargazers are already queuing up to don their spacesuits, with more than 200 people having expressed an interest and 43 made reservations.
If the project has something of a Trekkie fantasy about it, it is because it started life as a hobby for Xavier Claramunt, a space enthusiast and chief operating officer of Galactic Suite. A former aerospace engineer, Mr Claramunt says that his company is at the forefront of the emerging industry of space tourism. “It is normal to think that your children, perhaps within 15 years, could spend a week in space,” he insists.
To beat the awkward effects of weightlessness, Galactic Suite plans to dress its guests in Velcro suits, allowing them to stick to the spacecraft walls. A single pod, accommodating four paying guests and two astronauts, will be in orbit 280 miles above the Earth, circling the planet at 30,000km (19,000mph) an hour.
It will take a day-and-a-half to reach the space pod, Mr Claramunt said. “When the passengers arrive in the rocket, [the astronauts] will join it for three days, rocket and capsule. With this we create in the tourist a confidence that he hasn’t been abandoned,” he said.
Mr Claramunt says that a mystery billionaire has financed the €3 billion (£2.5 billion) project. An insider at the Spanish Technical Centre for the Aeronautical and Space Industry, said that the company had underestimated the cost of the project, with a suborbital shuttle alone costing €1 billion.
Even if his idea does get off the ground, Mr Claramunt faces some stiff competition. Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is poised to take advantage of the first facility built specifically for fee-paying passengers. The British tycoon plans to offer suborbital rides at £122,053. Construction of Spaceport America, which aims to offer a commercial space service, is already under way in New Mexico.