[/caption]Back in 2009, Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte fired up the imaginations of would-be astronauts the world round when he paid an estimated $35 million dollars to spend 12 days aboard the International Space Station How many of us who are too large, too small or too out of physical shape to be a space traveller cheered when a rather “ordinary” human took place in space? Well, get in line for the next adventure… because just a mere $28,750,000 might buy you a ticket for a 30-day stay in Earth orbit.
Away from the glitz of Las Vegas, real estate developer Robert Bigelow is making use of the quiet Mojave Desert setting to solidify plans which border on the down-right incredible. His Bigelow Aerospace company owns 50 acres of barren land with buildings that aren’t much different than neighboring contractors – with the exception of high security. So why would these unassuming structures need armed security guards with futuristic alien patches on their uniforms?
Because he’s building the first space hotel.
These high-tech, low-cost inflatable space stations may very well be our future. As Bigelow believes, we’ll need a place to stay if we’re to further our studies in space – so why not in affordable accommodations? Bigelow has amassed his terrestrial wealth over his lifetime by providing rooms here, and the last 15 years have seen him invest approximately $210 million of his own money towards futuristic plans. In the long run, he’s willing to put forward up to $500 million to see his project through. His goal is to prove that space is a safe place for those willing to make the jump.
“We have a way of building stations that are far less expensive, far more safe and can be built more quickly,” says Bigelow. “And the timing is right.”
According the the entrepreneur, he’s engaging more than a dozen nations and has “memorandums of understanding” from countries including Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden, Australia and the United Kingdom. In February NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver visited Bigelow Aerospace’s plant in North Las Vegas, and the agency is currently evaluating the company’s expandable modules for use as expansions to the International Space Station.
While it would be easy to write off such grand schemes as another of Bigelow’s “big” adventures, these inflatable space habitats are founded in solid technology. Bigelow’s prototypes have been orbiting Earth since 2006. His expansion of the desert plant will provide at least double the amount of work space, allowing him to construct a a scale model of the Sundancer, the first habitat he plans to launch into space. And when that’s done, he’ll build a model of its big brother, the BA330: At 11,600 cubic feet, it has nearly as much volume as the entire ISS!
When can we expect to book a room with a real view? Bigelow expects to have a fully functioning station in orbit by 2016 and to begin charging rent for it. While a little less than a million dollars a night isn’t going to exactly threaten Super 8 rates, one thing we can look forward to is knowing exactly what lights they’ll leave on…
Original Story Source: Forbes.
Tammy was a professional astronomy author, President Emeritus of Warren Rupp Observatory and retired Astronomical League Executive Secretary. She’s received a vast number of astronomy achievement and observing awards, including the Great Lakes Astronomy Achievement Award, RG Wright Service Award and the first woman astronomer to achieve Comet Hunter’s Gold Status.
(Tammy passed away in early 2015… she will be missed)