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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to take a vacation in space? This idea might seem far fetched but the reality is closer than you think. Competitions like the X-prize have led to the blossoming possibilities of private and commercial space travel with the emergence of a budding space tourism industry being one of the possible outcomes. Some day you might be able to take a trip to space and stay in a space hotel.
So what are the obstacles that have kept space hotels from becoming a reality? The biggest obstacle has been money. As of right now, there are few countries on the planet that have the capability to launch a payload into orbit. The main two being the United States and Russia. For the US, it is still unusually costly to do so. The space shuttle on average costs about $450 million just to launch. However the Russian space program has been able to launch conventional payloads for around $20 million.
The next challenge is technological. The science of space exploration is complex because there are so many potential problems and obstacles to anticipate in order to avoid accidents and malfunctions. Space is THE harshest environment in existence so scientist have their hands full just making it possible for human beings to survive.
Fortunately, solutions are cropping up that meet these challenges. The main sources have been the private sectors and universities. The end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 21st century has seen the emergence of more billionaires than any other time in modern history. These people have big dreams and ideas and the cash to test them out. This solves the cost issue as private citizens and companies are spending their own money. Billionaires like Charles Branson and Elon Musk are using their wealth to push the boundaries of space exploration funding the successful construction of cheaper and better ways to get to space. In the area of space hotels specifically entrepreneurs have already come up with unique ideas of how to build, launch, and fund hotels in space.
A good example is Robert Bigelow. Mr. Bigelow owns Budget Extended Stay Hotels. He used the ingenious idea of using inflatable modules made of super strong fabrics. He also used the cheaper Russian space agency to launch them into space. For a fraction of the cost, he solved the problem of carrying the payload into space and building it. Since only the most wealthy can even afford a trip into space he proposed a unique solution using these hotels as business buildings allowing countries without a space program and private companies to be the main clientele.
Today most space tourism is now done through the Russian space agency. Strapped for cash after the end of the Space and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russians turned to selling trips to space to fund their program. For most tourists, the cost is around $20 million US. However, as market competition heats up to find cheaper and better ways to get to space and live there the space hotel of tomorrow may be closer than we think.
If you enjoyed this article there are others on Universe Today that you might enjoy. There is a great article about space elevators which may play a key role in space tourism. There is also a great article about a spaceport being built in the United States.
There also several new articles on the web about space hotels. The first is about Mr. Bigelowe’s space hotels. The second is about the space hotel being built by a company in Barcelona, Spain.
You might also like listening to Astronomy Cast. Episode 14 Getting Around the Solar system is a great show.