Much has been made about how (very, very rich) space tourists will travel to their off-the-beaten path destination, but where will they stay once they do? A luxury boutique hotel, of course.
A team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology students have won a NASA competition to design commercially viable accommodations for low-Earth orbit—the first 180-2,000 kilometers (100-1,200 miles) above the planet. NASA tasked participants to come up with something that could one day also be used by travelers to Mars.
So what does the first space hotel look like? Forget brass railings and ferns in a spacious lobby. The MIT team envisions eight inflatable rooms, arranged in a circle like wheel spokes, attached to a NASA space station. The design is called the Managed, Reconfigurable, In-space Nodal Assembly, or Marina for short.
The hotel is meant to replace the International Space Station and reduce NASA’s costs. The commercial operator would rent space to NASA. The MIT team estimates that will reduce the space agency’s costs by 16%, or $3 billion a year, because the operator would generate revenue from the hotel.
Optional activities include donning a spacesuit for a spacewalk, or chatting with NASA scientists about their work. Each room—where guests would be belted into their beds to sleep—and the hotel’s common area would offer sweeping views of Earth. Should guests tire of contemplating their insignificance in this universe, there are plenty of other amenities:
• A bar and a restaurant, which will hopefully take its cues from first-class airplane cabins rather than space missions past. Guests can eat in the restaurant or in their rooms.
• A gym, which unlike on Earth, visitors will definitely need to visit in a weightless environment, as fun as that is. It is to feature an Earth-facing window and a wall featuring panoramic projections of the surfaces of the moon or Mars. And you get a trainer to keep you focused from the celestial distractions.
• Individualized service. There are four staff members, for up to 16 guests.
George Lordos, a graduate fellow on the MIT team, likens the design to a “yacht marina,” in that it provides an array of logistical services, like power, maintenance and clean water. Other modules could be rented out to other private owners.
So what’s the cost? Just $5 million for a two-week holiday. Lordos estimates the hotel could be in operation by 2025, so start saving.