The main problem about space is how much it costs to get there: it's too expensive! And that's mainly because launch vehicles are expendable - either entirely, like satellite launchers, or partly, like the space shuttle.

So we need reusable launch vehicles. The trouble is that these will not only reduce the cost of launch - they'll also put the makers out of business, unless there's more to launch than just a few satellites a year, as there are today.

Fortunately there's a market that will generate far more launch business than satellites ever well - passenger travel. Market Research has shown that the idea of space tourism is very very popular. And so, just like aviation, the launch industry is going to find that most of its business will be carrying passengers.

But this idea of Space Tourism isn't at all familiar to most people, including the space industry, who are used to the idea that space is for research or military activities. Few people are aware of how much work has been done to show that tourism is a realistic goal, and how rapidly this work is now progressing.

Once travel to orbit becomes a commercial service, the question of how to get to space will be mainly one of saving up for a ticket - or looking for work in one of the many space hotels that will be built. Space offers unique pleasures including the view, and zero gravity activities that provide a whole range of things to do on an orbital holiday - including space sports.

Importantly, and contrary to what many people assume, the space agencies are not at all interested in space tourism, and are not trying to bring it about. This is a pity because space activities will never be profitable until tourism services begin, remaining small-scale, expensive, and dependent on taxes which come from you - which would you prefer?

29 July 2012
Added "Space Debris and Its Mitigation" to the archive.
16 July 2012
Space Future has been on something of a hiatus of late. With the concept of Space Tourism steadily increasing in acceptance, and the advances of commercial space, much of our purpose could be said to be achieved. But this industry is still nascent, and there's much to do. this space.
9 December 2010
Updated "What the Growth of a Space Tourism Industry Could Contribute to Employment, Economic Growth, Environmental Protection, Education, Culture and World Peace" to the 2009 revision.
7 December 2008
"What the Growth of a Space Tourism Industry Could Contribute to Employment, Economic Growth, Environmental Protection, Education, Culture and World Peace" is now the top entry on Space Future's Key Documents list.
30 November 2008
Added Lynx to the Vehicle Designs page.
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Space Hotels
From Market Research we know that most people would like to stay in orbit for a few days or more. And this stands to reason, if you're paying $20,000 for your trip to orbit! So in order for space tourism to reach its full potential there's going to be a need for orbital accommodation - or space hotels. These will grow through phases, starting with 'lodges' for up to about 100 guests, growing to true hotels of several hundred guests, and eventually to orbiting "theme parks" for many thousands of guests.
Getting There is Half the Fun

But what would a space hotel actually be like to visit? Hotels in orbit will offer the services you expect from a hotel - private rooms, meals, bars. But they'll also offer two unique experiences: stupendous views - of Earth and space - and the endless entertainment of living in zero-G - including sports and other activities that make use of this. And there are further possibilities such as space-walking.

So a trip to a hotel will start with launch to orbit, which takes about 5 minutes of powered acceleration, followed by up to a few hours of weightlessness approaching the hotel (depending on the flight schedule). Docking will be rather like an airliner parking at an airport - but you'll leave the cabin floating in zero-G along the access tube, holding on to a cable with your hands!

Types of Space Hotel

The hotels themselves will vary greatly - from being quite spartan in the early days, to huge luxury structures at a later date. It's actually surprising that as late as 1997 very few designs for space hotels have ever been published. (cf Shimizu, Ehricke, WATG) This is mainly because those who might be expected to design them haven't expected launch costs to come down far enough to make them possible.

Shimizu Corporation's popular Space Hotel design

Luckily it's easy to design basic accommodation in orbit - because it was already done in 1973(!) with the "Skylab" space station. Minimal living facilities require a cylindrical module with air-conditioning, some windows, and a kitchen and bathroom. But zero gravity allows you to build almost any shape and size, in almost any direction. So exploiting the full range of possibilities of zero gravity architecture will keep designers happy for decades! There'll also be rotating (and tethered) structures giving artificial gravity.

Getting Around

Lots of people who've been to space have described in detail what it's like to live in zero gravity. Of course, no-one has yet lived in a rotating space station like the "2001" space station. Such designs will probably be used, but building such a rotating structure will be a significant step beyond just attaching some modules together. It has the advantage of providing accommodation at different levels of artificial gravity, but with some important caveats as discussed by Dr. Theodore Hall.

The key to moving in zero-G is to think of your center of mass - which is just behind your belly-button. Any time you push against someone or bump something, if the line of that push doesn't go through your belly-button, then it tends to set you rotating around your belly button! So to move in a certain direction you have to be sure to push in a line that goes through your belly-button (if you see what that means!)

At first, the key is just to move slowly and simply, so you have time to think what you're doing. But as you get the hang of it you'll find it enjoyable to push off from a wall with just the right rotation rate to land on your feet on the opposite wall. And then faster and faster! There are obviously all sorts of possibilities for dancing, gymnastics and zero G sports!

Luckily you don't need to sleep much living in zero gravity, so you'll have plenty of time for relaxing by hanging out (literally!) in a bar with a panoramic window looking down at the turning Earth below, or sitting in a darkened astronomical viewing room listening to a guide explain the sights you can see through the binoculars available, or discoing in zero G, or...

All Good Things...

Of course all good things have to come to an end, unfortunately! And so after a few days you'll find yourself heading back through the docking point to the returning vehicle - though you'll be much more expert at manoeuvring in zero G than you were when you arrived! You'll be thinking how soon you can save up enough to get back up again - or maybe you should change jobs to get to work in an orbiting hotel!

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