Our Vision:

It is the year 2050 and the classic sci-fi theme night at the bubble bar is pumping…

R2-D2 weaves through the crowd with a tray of pink martinis while a Parliament cover band slaps out cosmic funk to a dance floor of alien races. Chewbacca sits alone at the bar, eyes fixed on multi-coloured liquor, while nearby a flesh-flashing Barbarella caresses the Moon mountain forehead of her vexed Klingon boyfriend. You glance at a computer-generated holographic Rimmer playing tiered chess with a wannabe Spock in the corner, before turning around and marvelling at a truly awesome galactic vista.

The Moon and the Earth are full – your space hotel floating before them.

On Earth, clouds swirl as a tornado forms off the coast of Honduras, while on the Moon, paparazzi-like lights twinkle around the formidable Tycho Crater – sunlight reflected by solar panels supplying energy to a thriving colony.

And in the space around them, a bustling orbital infrastructure is coming in and out of view:

There are orbiting space hotels, fuel depots, dry docks, laboratories, factories and hospitals. And four times a day, fully reusable launch vehicles and spacecraft blast off from Earth, delivering tourists, workers, supplies and industry equipment to orbiting transfer vehicles.

Space cruisers then carry on the journey, picking-up goods and passengers for journeys to a variety of orbiting and lunar locations.  

You turn back to the party and smile; your fellow hotel guests are living it up in their impressive Fox Studios supplied costume.

Your simulation is now over…

It’s the year 2012 and an exciting time for space tourism.

Perhaps you think the above scenario impossible: a crazy, outlandish dream – the current cost of space travel an unsurmountable hurdle that will prevent space tourism and industry from ever getting off the ground.

There is much to suggest otherwise.

Space tourism is certainly in its infancy. But all signs suggest it’s about to enter a dynamic adolescence, full of growth, experimentation, failures and successes.

Parental figures abound: from national space agencies like NASA to a gamut of private technology companies, commercial space companies, leisure companies and investors presently guiding this soon to be teen beyond the comfort of home into a galaxy where it will make its name as a big industry earner.

The Beginning

In April 2001, the first space tourist, multimillionaire Dennis Tito, paid US$20 million to blast out of the atmosphere into space, where he spent seven days at the International Space Station (ISS).

His journey was orchestrated by space tourism company, Space Adventures, in partnership with the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation and Space Corporation (Energia). Six equally cashed-up space tourists have followed, paying between $20-35 million each for missions to the ISS ranging from 11 to 15 days.

But these were just the baby steps of a fledgling space tourism industry.

Hefty prices are soon to fall as the industry’s cumulative growth enables cost effective collaboration and technologies to make travelling to the Moon as normal as flying LAX to Heathrow.

Private Enterprise

Contrary to the commonly held belief of national space agencies, it is private enterprise, particularly space tourism, mining and the existing billion-dollar satellite industry, that will fund future space exploration and the colonisation of the Moon.

Asteroids and the Moon are certainly full of valuable resources, but tourism is possibly the biggest prospective space industry with research surveys consistently showing that demand for space tourism is high.

Through engaging consumer demand, viable economic models reveal that space tourism, as opposed to existing government ventures costing billions of dollars and generating no return, has the potential to explode, contributing to massive economic growth on Earth and spawning innumerable support services.

A 2010 U.S. Federal Aviation Administration report, The Economic Impact of Commercial Space Transportation on the U.S. Economy in 2009, projects a billion dollar space tourism market within 20 years.

We think this is conservative.

Transition

The space industry is currently going through massive change:

The U.S. Administration under Obama has retired its space shuttle fleet and redirected a significant proportion of NASA’s funding to the development of commercial manned spaceflight capabilities; a new space industry consisting of billions of dollars in contracts and investment is building; cutting edge technologies enabling cost-effective reusable space craft and launch vehicles are developing; and eleven years after Dennis Tito exited the Earth’s atmosphere, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has sold 500 tickets for imminent suborbital flights, valued at only US$200,000.

                                                         Virgin Galactic

And Virgin Galactic’s suborbital flights are just the beginning; the first relatively affordable space travel experience in a chain of space tourism ventures that will take us progressively further from the planet’s surface to the Moon.

New Technology

The greatest impediment to space tourism has always been the exorbitant costs involved in exiting and entering the Earth’s atmosphere. But for the first time, some of the world’s greatest minds, funded by billions of dollars from private enterprise and investors, are currently applying themselves to creating fully reusable spacecraft and launch vehicles.

When they do, which looks likely to be soon, space travel costs will plummet and the galaxy will be opened up forever.

                                                      Moon Transport

New Industry

Space Tourism

Orbiting space hotels are the next big step in space tourism, and once the cost of Earth to space travel is reduced, financing for them will be easily acquired.

Tourism on Earth is already a billion dollar industry, with investment in hotels and theme parks ranging from $1 billion to several billion dollars.

Investors like these, will quickly see the potential in the orbiting space hotel market, pouring billions of dollars into design, research and development.

And the path is already being paved.

Bigelow Aerospace is currently in the process of establishing the first hotel in space, with funding from its billionaire founder Robert T. Bigelow and his various corporate partners. Experimental space modules, Genesis I and Genesis II have already been launched and are currently orbiting, soon to be joined by the BA 330 module in 2014.

Mining

Space Tourism will also evolve in parallel to the growing activities of industry.

Big news in early 2012 was emerging information that Google’s chief executive Larry Page, executive chairman Eric Schmidt and film director James Cameron have plans to send robotic spacecraft to mine asteroids for minerals and fuel.

The three also plan to place a fuel depot in orbit by 2020.

More significantly, Google is stimulating lunar exploration and the tapping of lunar resources through its Google Lunar X Prize.

A US$30 million prize is to be given to the first privately funded team to send a robot to the Moon that travels at least 500 meters on its surface while sending video, images and data back to Earth. Additional prize money will also be given to any team capable of finding ice at its Poles.

Why?  The Moon’s regolith (top soil) has an abundance of silicon.

Google hopes that the prize will generate the cost-cutting technological innovation necessary to establish a lunar base from which companies can mine the silicon, and from it construct orbiting solar power stations, each one capable of powering a city back on Earth.

Registration for the competition closed in December 2010, and 26 teams are now busily at work to get their robots to the Moon.

Orbital Transfer to the Moon

With space hotels, and possibly asteroid and lunar mining, established, Orbital transfer vehicles are likely to be constructed, allowing spacecraft from Earth to transfer cargo and passengers to ships operating only in space – the spaceships that will take us to the Moon.

Freed from the extreme design and power requirements imposed by the Earth’s gravity and atmosphere, these space-only ships – lets call them space cruisers – are likely to be spacious and comfortable, allowing for luxurious decor and mod cons for a pleasurable space ride.

Moon Holidays

Then, with the aforementioned infrastructure established (we’re currently estimating this to occur around the year 2025), Accommodation.com will be able to construct our hotel on the Moon.

By 2030, the hotel will be complete, and lunar tourist will be offered 14-day journeys, consisting of 6-days of space travel and eight days of marvellous Moon pleasure.

                        Moon Holiday                                  Moon Hotel

Expanding Orbital Infrastructure

Orbital infrastructure will then rapidly expand, with the construction and establishment of a number of orbiting facilities:

  • Orbiting dry docks: manned by human or automated mechanics in space and orbiting the Earth and the Moon, these dry docks will be frequented by space-only vehicles (space cruisers), earth to space shuttles and satellites in need of repair.
  • Orbiting fuel docks: also orbiting both the Earth and the Moon, these gas stations in space will obviously supply space cruisers and Earth-to-space shuttles with fuel.
  • Orbiting factories: resources mined on the moon and asteroids will be processed here, most probably in a highly automated manner, before being transported to Earth.
  • Orbiting hospitals: here the medical requirements of space tourists and space workers will be attended to with medical centres, radiation treatments, vacuum treatments and surgery provided. Research will also be conducted on space related medicine.
  • Orbiting laboratories: here governments or corporations will conduct research on drugs, chemical, materials and electronics in space along with long-term gravity and vacuum research.
  • Orbiting interplanetary internet satellites: satellites around the Earth and Moon will enable access to internet on the Moon and easy communication between Moon and Earth inhabitants.

Our Journey

The journey ahead is long, but exciting, filled with world firsts and dazzling innovations. And all the while Project Moon at Accommodation.com will be there, monitoring developments on Earth and in space, designing and redesigning our Moon Hotel as possibilities are explored to their conclusion, and forging lasting relationships with commercial space companies, investors in tourism, the movers and shakers in the burgeoning world of space tourism and you, the space loving public.

So join us: it’s going to be out of this world.

Note: The vision of a future orbital infrastructure presented here was derived from the exceptional work of the Space Tourism Society.

http://www.spacetourismsociety.org 

Wanting to engage in discussion of the future of space tourism? Visit the Moon Economics Forum [LINK].

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