Five-star hotel completely outnumbered

The Life: A Russian company wants to launch the first hotel in space.
A visitor tries out a model of the orbiting hotel in Russia. Reuters
A visitor tries out a model of the orbiting hotel in Russia. Reuters

A project under development in Russia would bring new meaning to the concept of a five-star hotel.

A company called Orbital Technologies last week announced plans to launch a hotel facility into orbit capable of handling seven guests at a time. The space hotel won't have a spa, swimming pool or expensive linen sheets, but the facility will offer guests one-of-a-kind views of the Earth and stars, as well as first-class bragging rights at the local country club.

A trip to the hotel will cost about US$1 million (Dh3.6m) for a five-day stay, including transfer to the facility inside the Soyuz capsule, the company said.

The hotel, which will be fixed in orbit 217 miles (350km) above the Earth, is billed as a more comfortable version of the International Space Station currently in orbit. Although it may not have some of the amenities wealthy travellers expect, plans call for beds, showers and special meals far more advanced than those enjoyed by astronauts working in space.

"The hotel will be aimed at wealthy individuals and people working for private companies who want to do research in space," said Sergei Kostenko, the chief executive of Orbital Technologies.

Sceptics abound. Russia does not have the funding to build and launch a commercial space vehicle, experts told Reuters.

And there will always be dangers to space travel, as evidenced by this week's news that a Russian rocket carrying supplies to the space station crashed after an engine failure.

For now, the only way to get into space is to catch a ride on the Russian Soyuz capsule, since the US has officially retired the Space Shuttle.

But the West is far ahead of Russia in the race to develop commercial space operations, with several companies developing technologies to deliver private citizens into space. Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is already accepting reservations for flights from a space port under construction in New Mexico.

"Space tourism is a real and fast-growing business," Mr Kostenko said. "Whoever builds the first new spaceship now will reap big dividends."

The Quote: An extravagance is something that your spirit thinks is a necessity. Bern Williams, author

kbrass@thenational.ae

Published: August 26, 2011 04:00 AM

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