Companies are now competing to become the first to host guests in orbit on purpose-built space stations.
“It sounds kind of crazy to us today because it is not a reality yet,” said Frank Bunger, founder of US aerospace firm Orion Span, one of the companies who want to take travelers out of this world.
US multimillionaire Dennis Tito became the world’s first paying space tourist in 2001, travelling to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket for a reported $20 million.
Since then, companies like Boeing, SpaceX and Blue Origin have been trying to find ways to bring the stars into reach for more people opening up a new business frontier for would-be space hoteliers.
US space agency NASA announced a few weeks ago that it plans to allow two private citizens a year to stay at the ISS at a cost of about $35,000 per night for up to a month. The first mission could be as early as 2020.
However, this has raised questions about the adequacy of current space laws, which mainly deal with exploration and not tourism.
“It is difficult now to want to do things in space and get a clear answer from (space law),” said Christopher Johnson, a space law adviser at the Secure World Foundation, a space advocacy group.
Orion Span plans to host the first guests on its Aurora Station a capsule-shaped spacecraft roughly the size of a private jet by 2024, said Bunger.
Accompanied by a crew member, up to five travellers at a time would fly up to the station for a 12-day stay costing at least $9.5 million per head, he said.
In orbit, guests would take part in scientific experiments, enjoy some 16 sunrises and sunsets a day and play table tennis in zero gravity, he said, adding about 30 people had already put down a $80,000 deposit to save a seat.
Californian company the Gateway Foundation is hoping to build a massive space station for 400 people which will include tourists, researchers, doctors and housekeepers.
Solar-powered and shaped like a wheel, the station would spin around its core to create artificial gravity on its perimeter, equal to about one-sixth of that on earth, said its architect Tim Alatorre.
“The problem is that you can only spin so fast before you start feeling sick,” he said. “We could easily create earth gravity on the station by spinning it faster but you wouldn’t be very comfortable.”
Without disclosing how much a space holiday would cost, Alatorre said the goal was to make the station “accessible to the everyday person”.
“So somebody can save up and go on a vacation to the United States or they can save up and go on a vacation to space,” he said.
The law is another hurdle for space hotels to lift off.
(With Agency Inputs)
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