You sit in your hotel room, looking out the window as a robot massages your shoulders. You just finished an intense game of zero-g basketball, and your muscles are a little tight. You do feel lighter due to the lighter gravity though. The hotel room itself is moving slowly, so the view out your window is always changing. Suddenly the most beautiful sight you’ve ever seen comes into view. A blue orb with swirling white whisps and lush continents passes by. Tears fill your eyes as you look at Earth from the first hotel in space.
Orbital Assembly's Voyager Station is set to be finished by 2027 and will be the first space hotel ever assembled. However, this may be a slightly optimistic timeline as there are currently no scheduled missions to bring materials and the crew needed to construct the hotel up into space. The global pandemic and supply chain issues have also slowed progress and could add several years to the estimated timeline. That being said, a vacation to space might be closer than you think.
Let’s fast forward a decade from now when space travel has become slightly cheaper, and the first hotel in space is now orbiting Earth. What would a stay at this hotel be like? And would it be worth the exuberant cost to travel and stay there? You have come into a large sum of money, and you know just what you want to do with it: stay at the newly constructed Voyager Station. You’ve heard incredible things on social media about the new hotel in space, and you are ready to take your first vacation in years. You hop on the computer and go to hotels.com.
They launched their space hotel website back in 2020, but there were no actual space hotels to book at the time. The website is now fully operational. You click on the Voyager Station option and check room rates. The prices are astronomical at around 10 million dollars a person. This also includes your flight to and from the space hotel, along with all your food and drinks. But is it worth it? In the end, you decide you only live once and pull the trigger. You click the “book it now” button and enter your credit card information. Now that you have a ticket, it is time to begin your pre-vacation space training and physical examination. This is not like taking a trip to a tropical island or amusement park; this is space. If you are going to be a tourist on the final frontier, it’s required that you take a few courses to get up to speed on what to expect on your vacation in space.
As part of your vacation package, you have been signed up for a physical and a series of classes sponsored by NASA. First, the doctors make sure that your body can handle being launched into space aboard a high-powered rocket. You need to have a healthy heart and blood pressure within the normal range. They also run a series of mental tests to make sure that you will be able to cope in tight spaces and won’t be a danger to yourself or others at the hotel. You pass all of these exams with flying colours and move on to the simulation portion of the pre-vacation training. You are first put into a state-of-the-art centrifuge that will generate the G-force you will experience on take-off and re-entry. Surprisingly, you find that the G-force you need to withstand isn’t as intense as they make it seem in movies and television shows.
During take-off, an astronaut only experiences around 3-G’s of force. This is what you are put through during your pre-vacation training. It’s enough G-force to feel yourself being pushed back into the seat of the simulator, but your cheeks don’t ripple as if the skin is being pulled from your face. After you get off of the centrifuge, you feel a little dizzy. You wobble to the recovery room and are given some snacks. You are sent home with a clean bill of health, some basic training, and a ticket to your next destination before you are cleared for space travel. This may seem like a lot to go through just to go on vacation, but the space hotel is adamant that you meet all of these requirements; otherwise, they can’t promise you’ll have an enjoyable experience. The next day you step onto a modified Boeing 727 for your first taste of weightlessness. You won’t be going to space, but you will be freefalling inside of the aeroplane, which causes weightlessness for a brief period. The ride you are about to embark on is called the vomit comet, and there is a good reason it got that name. Almost all of the seats have been torn out inside the aircraft, and the fuselage is covered in padding. You strap in, and the plane takes off. It ascends higher and higher towards the sky until it reaches the right altitude. Then the aircraft nosedives towards the ground before pulling back up again. It is this parabolic flight path that causes the sensation of weightlessness.
Not feeling gravity can be disorienting to the body and can cause vertigo and nausea—hence the name vomit comet. As you plummet towards Earth, you find that the sensation doesn’t bother you at all. You haven't felt so alive in years. You summersault in mid-air and do barrel rolls as if you were a fighter jet. Yes, you bounce off the walls a few times, but this is part of the experience; plus they are padded. If you are safely going to navigate your way onto the space hotel, this is a vital part of your pre-vacation training to make sure you know what to expect. You have jumped through all of the hoops and proved that your body can handle the flight and stay in space. It’s going time. You pack your bag with five days worth of clothing and head to the space hotel's private launchpad used to bring their guests up to the resort. It’s there that your credentials are checked, your ticket scanned, and you are given your flight suit.
You change into a private locker room and are escorted through a maze of hallways to an elevator. It brings you to the top of the rocket, where you board the capsule along with four other passengers and two pilots. The crew helps you get settled in your seat and straps you in. To your right is a small porthole window. You can see miles of desert around you as the launch pad is in a secluded area of the country. The hatch to the spacecraft is closed, and the pilot’s voice comes over the intercom. “We are t-minus 1 minute to lift off. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.” You are nervous, but you can’t help but smile as you are about to go on your first vacation to space. The countdown reaches its final stages. 3, 2, 1, liftoff! The engines fire and all you can hear is a deafening roar for several seconds. You are pushed back into your seat as the rocket accelerates towards space. Only minutes later, you break the atmosphere. Out your window, you can see the curvature of the Earth and its brilliant blues oceans. Then it happens. You are in orbit, essentially freefalling around Earth, making you weightless. The captain gives the all-clear, and you are allowed to unlatch your safety harness and float around the small capsule.
There isn’t much room, but you push off the floor and walls to look out every window possible. As you peer through one of the portholes, the space hotel comes into view. It looks like a giant Ferris wheel spinning in space. The captain informs everyone to return to their seats and strap in. The spacecraft is about to dock with the hotel, and then your vacation will officially begin. You fasten your seatbelt and watch as the pilot expertly lines up the space capsule with the docking bay. There is a slight jolt as the clamps pull the craft towards the hotel’s hatch and create an airtight seal. The captain unstraps himself, checks the door, and then opens it. On the other side are several hotel staff dressed in futuristic tuxedos waiting to welcome you onboard. In your excitement, you forget all of the warnings you were given during your training and push off too hard towards the door. You bump into another passenger, and you both go careening off course. You hit your head on the frame of the door and let out a yelp. The captain shakes their head and laughs: “happens all the time,” she says. You rub the newly forming bump and smile a little sheepishly. You’re slightly embarrassed, but that won’t stop you from climbing aboard the space hotel and experiencing all that it has to offer. As you push yourself through the doorway, the hotel staff gives you a beverage contained in a sippy cup so it doesn’t spill and go floating around the hotel.
You are led to the concierge, who examines your ticket and tells you exactly where your room is located. Before you or anyone else gets settled, the hotel staff bring you to one of the recreation rooms. It’s a small theatre with a stage and a glass window where Earth serves as a backdrop. A man walks onto the stage, followed by an animatronic robot. “Hello!” the man says. “I am your hotel manager, and this is my assistant.” He motions towards the robot. “Please remain seated as we engage the artificial gravity aboard the hotel.” Everyone is required to put on a seatbelt in their chairs. Once everyone is secured, the manager gives the go-ahead. The space hotel begins to turn. As it spins, it creates artificial gravity similar to the G-force on the centrifuge during your training. “We are only going to generate about 60% of the amount of gravity on Earth. This will cause things to fall, but much more slowly. You will not be weightless, but you will feel it is much easier to lift objects, and you can move around more quickly. Please be careful as you might not realize your strength in this reduced gravity environment.” The space hotel continues to spin and eventually reaches the correct speed.
You are now allowed to walk around and explore the first space hotel in the solar system. “Just a quick warning,” the hotel manager calls to you and the other guests as you eagerly rush out of the theatre to investigate the rest of the amenities. “You are now on the outer ring of the hotel. As you go closer to the middle, gravity will diminish. It is here you can enjoy our zero-G basketball court and other low-gravity activities. Please don’t forget your training around weightlessness while you are exploring the inner rings.” No one listens to the manager as they are already on their way out the door. However, you stick around long enough to notice middle-aged gentlemen stand up from his wheelchair as tears stream down his face. In the normal gravity of the earth, his legs were too weak to support him. However, in space, he can move around freely. It is the first time he has been able to walk unassisted in his entire life. This is one of the beautiful things about the space hotel; it can make dreams come true for everyone. You decide to go to the lounge and enjoy a glass of champagne to celebrate your first space vacation.
The bartender is not a human but a robot. It welcomes you in an electronic voice and asks what you want. You order a glass of bubbly. A circle in the bar in front of you opens, and a glass of champagne rises from below. You gasp in amazement. The robot informs you that if you need anything else, all you have to do is ask because this space hotel is all-inclusive. It suggests a series of space-themed cocktails such as Planetary Punch, Milky Way Martini, and something called Alien Secretion Shots. You can’t wait to try them all, although the last one gives you pause. You leave the bar and walk towards one of the tables next to a huge glass window. You are no longer facing Earth; instead, you’re looking into the vastness of space. Stars twinkle as you sip on your Champagne; it is breathtaking. After you’re done, you decide to explore some of the other amenities onboard. 24 modules make up the space hotel, and each one has its unique purpose. Although the space hotel can hold around 280 people, it doesn’t seem crowded as there is so much to do. There are 112 crew members onboard to grant your every wish, and that’s not counting the robots and A.I. who are also available 24/7. The space hotel is around 125,000 square feet in total, and you plan on exploring every single part of it, except for other people’s rooms and the staff quarters, of course. As you walk around the space hotel taking in the views, you notice that you’re not getting tired from walking at all. In the micro-gravity environment, you can do more and go for longer as your muscles don’t have to work as hard. You sit down on one of the couches in the library and flip through a book on space travel.
You order a cup of coffee, which a robot brings to you, and sip on it as you think about how far humans have come since Sputnik was launched in 1957 and became the first manmade object to orbit the planet. You ponder what to do next, and a smile crosses your face. You are going to do something you haven’t done in a long, long time, go to the gym. You make your way to a different capsule, where you find a series of machines and free weights. You pick up 50-pound dumbbells as if they are nothing and begin curling them. On the benchpress machine, you are lifting well over 200 pounds and not even breaking a sweat. This low gravity thing is sweet, you think. After you wipe down the bench, you make your way down a hallway to the inner section of the space hotel. It’s here that gravity is almost non-existent. You open one of the doors to find a basketball court.
There are already a few other guests playing a pickup game, and you ask them if you can join. As you float across the room, dunking the ball from half-court, you can’t help but think about how you could go pro if this was the way basketball was played. Your feet barely touch the ground, and almost every shot you take goes in. To end the game, you do a flip through the air and slam dunk the ball. You have built up an appetite after the game, so it is time to see what type of food they have aboard the space hotel. You shower off with recycled water generated from condensed water vapour taken out of the air by a state-of-the-art recycling system. Nothing is wasted in space as getting supplies to the hotel is not the easiest thing in the world and is very expensive. You change into your nicest clothes and make your way to the gourmet restaurant in one of the other capsules. Your table is covered with a white tablecloth with an exotic flower resting in the middle of the table.
There is a prix fixe menu, so you don’t have to worry about choosing your meal. When the food comes you find yourself eating the freshest salad and the juiciest steak you’ve ever had. You call your waiter over and ask how everything can be so delicious out in space. He smiles and informs you that everything you are eating is grown in the space hotel. There is a whole capsule with a hydroponics bay to grow fresh produce, and the meat is produced in a lab. This makes you cringe for a second until the server explains the process. The meat starts as a single cell in a petri dish. Using genetic engineering, the scientists in the lab can grow any cut of meat and then use a series of machines to tenderize it in a way that mimics the way a free-range cow would move that muscle. The original cells come from the most revered farms on the planet, ensuring that the meat is of the highest quality. You are getting the best cuts without harming a single cow, pig, or chicken, and you literally can’t tell the difference.
After this meal, you vow only to eat lab-grown meat from here on out. You thank your waiter for the information, finish your wine, and head to the entertainment centre for a zero-gravity show. The actors put on your favourite music while floating across the stage. It brings a whole new dimension to musical theatre. When the show is over, you walk back to your room. There are still a few capsules you haven’t explored yet, so you decide to take a long way back. As you pass through the next section, you see people hard at work in a lab. You read the description printed on a plack next to the entrance of the capsule. It informs you that this area has been specially designed for scientific research.
The International Space Station has been operational since 1998, and it was time for a new setup. Onboard several of the space hotels being built, there are sections that NASA and other space agencies can rent out to continue their research. The ISS has become somewhat of a tourist attraction now as guests of the hotel can take an excursion via spaceship from the hotel to the retired space station. It’s like going to a space museum that happens to be in space. You peer in through the window that is above the plaque and see the astronauts in the lab wearing uniforms with patches signifying the country they’re from. Several wear the American flag, but you also see patches from European countries, Japan, Korea, and even Russia. The International Space Station may be retired, but there is still collaborative work happening on board this space hotel between scientists from different countries.
You continue walking and find yourself back in your hotel room. The face recognition software scans you, and the door to your room wooshes open. As you walk in, mood lighting automatically comes on; soft classical music plays over hidden speakers. You’ve never felt so relaxed in your entire life. The view outside your window changes as the space hotel rotates. You see another similar structure off in the distance. You read that after the success of the first space hotel, others are being built. Companies like Axiom are building a structure called the AxStation, and Orion Span is constructing Aurora Station. Not all of these space structures will be for leisure. Some of the designs are more like business parks than anything else. The capsules can be bought by companies where they can conduct research and business from their new space offices. You watch as a spacecraft approaches one of the other stations. Onboard might be engineers, scientists, or just plain businessmen.
The future of space exploration is being conducted aboard these space stations. Experiments are carried out, and new technology is being designed. It might have started with a space hotel, but the orbits around Earth are quickly being developed as if they were highly sought-after real estate. You drift off to sleep as the stars float by. Now and then, Earth passes your window. You have a newly found appreciation for the planet. From here, you can see how beautiful Earth is and how important it is to protect it. Our home is just a speck in the cosmos, but it is the only one we have. After several days aboard the space hotel, you feel a longing to return to Earth. You will be visiting space again, but there is nothing like the smell of a forest, the sound of waves crashing on a beach, or the embrace of Earth’s gravity. Your vacation aboard the first space hotel is unforgettable. You leave your room to have one final breakfast while looking at the stars. The robots and staff pack up your stuff and load it onto the ship headed back to Earth. After one last slam dunk on the zero-g basketball court, you make your way to the space capsule that will bring you home.
You and the other guests are loaded in and seen off by some of the staff. They will live on the space station for about three months at a time and then rotate back to Earth so that the long-term effects of microgravity and living in space on their bodies can be examined. The beauty of a space hotel or even a space business park is that we can learn so much from them, even if that is not the intended goal. New technology and methods for exploring space will be discovered by accident. Our space programs have slowed considerably since the space race, but perhaps space tourism is the catalyst to drive forward a new age of space exploration. You are strapped into your seat, and the space capsule unclamps from the docking bay.
You can see robots and staff waving at you through the portholes. You are already itching to book your next space vacation. As the capsule passes through the atmosphere, you feel the g-force push against you. The entire capsule shakes as the friction between the shell of the spacecraft and the atmosphere creates sparks and flames. This is normal, and you were warned ahead of time that it would happen. You pass through the atmosphere and descend towards the landing pad. When you are at the right altitude, the captain deploys a parachute. You feel a huge jolt due to the sudden deceleration of the craft. Just before the touchdown, a booster fires to slow your decent even more. The engines are dialled back, and the capsule lands safely on the platform.
The hatch is opened, and you are greeted by staff at the launch facility. They welcome you back to Earth and ask how your stay aboard the space hotel was. The gravity on the planet makes you feel heavy. You had become so used to the micro-gravity of the space hotel during your stay that now you feel sluggish. You need help getting back to the facility, where doctors will monitor you for a few hours. Once the doctors give you the all-clear, you are free to go home. You carry on with your day-to-day routines but the memories of your space vacation always linger in the back of your mind. A few weeks after you’ve returned, you go online, search for open rooms at the space hotel, and book your next vacation.