In 1872, a man named Phileas Fogg made a bet at the London Reform Club that he would travel around the earth in 80 days. He set out from London and crossed the four continents of Europe, Asia, Africa, and the United States. Return to London on the 79th day.
This is a fantasy story in "Around the Earth in Eighty Days", and the reality is-we can travel around the earth in 90 minutes, or lie in a luxurious space hotel.
Orbital assembly company OAC recently announced once again : The world's first space hotel-"Voyager Station" (Voyager Station), is coming soon .
This is a space construction company composed of NASA veterans, scientists, and engineers. They stated that "Voyager" will start construction in low-Earth orbit in 2025 and will officially open to the public in 2027.
It will orbit the earth every 90 minutes, which means that we can see the sunrise 16 times a day.
Of course, as an independent hotel in space, it can do much more than that.
What does the world's first space hotel look like?
From a distance, this hotel floating in space is like a ferris wheel.
It has a diameter of about 200 meters and consists of 24 modules, each with a length of about 20 meters and a diameter of about 12 meters.
These modules will be built in orbit around the earth using automated and remote-controlled robots. These 8-ton robots have heard that it takes only 90 minutes to build a similar model the size of a football field.
Once completed, the "traveler" will become the largest man-made structure in space.
Entering the hotel, its aesthetic style is a response to "2001: A Space Odyssey".
Tim Alatorre, senior design architect of OAC, believes that the goal of the film director is to emphasize the gap between technology and humans, so that the spacecraft looks clean, sterile and cold, and they want to do the opposite and find it back. Close to the warmth of people's lives.
So the design team put in gorgeous suites, chic bars, theme restaurants, cinemas, gyms, gyms, and even spas.
▲ Rendering of Voyager Station
The stadium will also become a large show venue for rock stars and talk show hosts.
CEO John Blincow said that they will invite Sting and Beyoncé to come and perform twice a day, which are part of the package.
In terms of food, OAC will invite the world's top chefs to provide food for guests, and it will be made in a kitchen without electricity or fire. Of course, the traditional "space frozen food" ice cream may also become the staple food of space hotels.
▲ Rendering of Voyager Station
In this way, it is not like a Ferris wheel, but a doughnut in space.
When you walk in the space hotel, apart from the vast space outside the window, the interior of the hotel seems to be no different from the luxury hotels on earth.
But in actual living, you can experience some things that cannot be done on earth.
The most obvious difference between space and earth is gravity. In order to ensure that residents can eat well, use the restroom, and sleep without floating in the air, this space hotel will first try to use centrifugal force to generate artificial gravity here .
▲ Rendering of Voyager Station
The artificial gravity here will be close to that of the moon. Although it is still different from that of the earth, it will not put pressure on people's heads. People can still run and jump in a normal way.
What's interesting is that when residents play on the basketball court in the hotel, they can jump 6 times as high as the earth.
▲ Rendering of Voyager Station
This space hotel can accommodate a total of 112 crew members and 280 guests. Of course, not all guests at the beginning, but also scientists, technical experts, service industry professionals and so on.
Some modules of the hotel will be operated by the Gateway Foundation of the United States, which manages the supply of accommodation, air, water and electricity for passengers.
On the outside of the rotating ring, OAC will also install a series of pods, some of which will be sold to NASA and ESA for space research.
However, before going to the hotel, people still need to spend about 3 days for rigorous training, including learning safety briefings, flight mission simulation, flight activity guidance, hotel operating procedures, and so on.
In terms of cost, although OAC did not announce the specific price, according to Travel + Leisure , the three-day accommodation cost may be US$5 million.
The OAC team has stated that it hopes that the final cost of a space hotel in the future should be about the same as a trip to Disneyland.
The road to space hotel "contend of a hundred schools of thought"
Bezos said in his graduation speech at the age of 18 that he hopes to build a space hotel, amusement park and colony for two to three million people, and build a space park.
With the rapid development of aerospace technology, the "space economy" is also growing. In addition to the satellite industry, space travel, space industry, and use of space resources have all begun to attract attention.
The space hotel that Bezos imagined is no longer a fantasy, but in a few years, the world's first space hotel will be OAC or another, it is not necessarily .
After all, the space hotel hasn't opened yet, and various space companies are already working hard.
But before that, let's talk about the source of the space hotel .
The term "space station" was first coined by Romanian rocket pioneer Hermann Oberth, and was blueprinted and modeled by Austrian Aerman Herman Noordung in 1928.
▲ Picture from: HermanPotočnik / Wikimedia
OAC's space hotel is actually inspired by the design of 60 years ago. Wernher von Braun, known as the father of rocket science, proposed the concept of a ring space station.
The circular spacecraft has a diameter of 76 meters and can create artificial gravity that is only 1/3 of the gravity on the earth, allowing people to stay in the space station for a long time.
It also inspired the birth of the avant-garde space station in "2001: A Space Odyssey".
Since then, the space hotel has been more or less influenced by the design of these space stations in history.
Not only OAC, the US space technology startup Orion Span also stated in 2019 that it will build "the first space hotel in history."
Their space hotel is called "Aurora Station" (Aurora Station). It is planned to be launched in 2021 and launched in 2022. However, it can only accommodate 6 people at a time, staying for a total of 12 days, USD 9.5 million per person, and requires 3 months of training. Set off.
Passengers will be able to see space inside, participate in research experiments, grow food, and various virtual reality experiences.
They have also started to develop the world's first commercial space station AxStation in orbit 250 miles from the earth.
▲ Rendering of Axiom Space commercial space station
Compared with OAC, this company has a much stronger background.
In January last year, NASA signed a contract with Axiom Space , stating that it will connect its space station modules to the International Space Station as early as 2024, and then add commercial residential space on the space station, which will be completed in 2028.
Its space hotel is designed as a detachable module that can be connected to the International Space Station, and can also leave the International Space Station to become an independent space station, and then travel in space. It sounds very romantic.
▲ Interior rendering of AxStation designed by Phillipe Starck
Passengers will take SpaceX rockets for space travel and stay in the International Space Station for 10 days, but the price of a ticket is not cheap, and a single person costs 55 million US dollars (about 357 million yuan).
With the popularity of space travel, well-known space companies have begun to pursue their victory. In 2018 , Virgin Galactic tried to send people into space for short-term residence through the manned spacecraft "Spacecraft 2" , including Angelina Jolie and Dika More than 700 people, including Prio and other Hollywood stars, signed up for only $250,000.
▲ Flow chart of Virgin Galactic's entire journey
Billionaire Robert Bigelow also cooperated with NASA in 2016 , using Musk’s rocket to send a 2.5-meter-long habitable inflatable space capsule to the International Space Station . This space capsule is not only lighter and smaller, but also easier to expand. .
▲ Picture from: Bloomberg
The core reason is that OAC will realize artificial gravity for the first time .
This will not only prevent tourists from floating in the air to eat and sleep, but to eat, drink and play normally, and experience diverse space hotel projects. Scientists can also increase and decelerate on the space station to understand how much gravity is needed for the long-term development of human beings in space. The most powerful.
John Blincow, the founder of the Gateway Foundation behind OAC, directly boasted Haikou:
This will be the next industrial revolution, and it will create a whole new space industry.
However, can the space hotel, which is always "talking on paper", really be realized as expected?
Can the space hotel work?
Work can have deadlines, but space projects do not.
Take OAC as an example. In fact, as early as 2019, they announced the space hotel plan. At that time, the name of the hotel was "Von Braun Station" (Von Braun Station). It is expected to start before 2025, but now the news is new. Once it came out, the time was postponed to 2027.
In a recent interview, the relevant person in charge of OAC explained that the main reason is that the new crown epidemic has delayed the project, but they are "working hard to make the public aware that the golden age of space hotels is coming."
▲ Picture from: iStock/Washington Post
However, whether the space hotel can be made depends on the lack of funds .
Orion Span’s "Aurora Space Station", because it did not raise funds, is now silent.
Axiom Space is rather moist . Not only did NASA and SpaceX vigorously support it, it also completed the B round of financing last month and raised US$130 million. This funding will also bring great benefits to the growth of Axiom Space’s talent team and the development and construction of the space station. thrust.
OAC is relatively suspended.
In the documents they submitted to the SEC, the assets at the end of the last fiscal year were only 497 US dollars. OAC admitted in the fund-raising live broadcast at the beginning of the year that the company has raised 1 million US dollars online, but tens of billions of US dollars are needed to build this space hotel. .
This makes their ambitious space hotel plan look like a blast without a sound.
▲ Picture from: iStock/Washington Post
At present, OAC is still selling company shares to private investors for US$0.25 per share, and said that the hotel will show its talents in multi-service markets such as tourism, entertainment, communications, advertising, power sales, microgravity manufacturing, and life science research in the future. , It is expected to reach an annual return of 147 billion U.S. dollars.
And, encourage everyone to look in a good direction, for example, technological progress .
Compared with the idea a few decades ago, although the shape and physical characteristics of OAC's space hotel have not changed much, it has been manufactured using advanced alloys, carbon composite materials, 3D printing and launch pad technology under new technologies, which also makes the space hotel It is possible to manufacture on the ground.
More practically, Tim Alatorre , the orbital architect of OAC, mentioned the progress in the private space industry, which has greatly reduced launch and transportation costs, and space commercial activities are waiting for explosive growth:
For a long time, the cost per kilogram of a rocket was about 8,000 US dollars, but with SpaceX’s Falcon 9, it can be achieved in less than 2,000 US dollars. With the emergence of the Starship interstellar spacecraft, its cost is only Only a few hundred dollars.
Reusable launch vehicles will make construction costs lower and lower. The CEO and President of OAC also added :
After the completion of the space hotel, through open science, military and other strategic activities, to further test and build the technology needed for human beings to live in space for a long time, and then accelerate the commercial activities in space.
However, commercial manned spaceflight is still a completely untested business model .
Back to technology, it has more aspects to be tested .
▲ An astronaut on the Virgin Galactic flight, picture from: Virgin Galactic
So far, Virgin Galactic’s "Spaceship 2" is still flying, and billionaire Robert Bigelow’s inflatable capsule is currently under inspection. It is necessary to collect air samples to test microorganisms and monitor the effectiveness of the capsule in blocking radiation. It is not yet possible to ensure that humans can live safely.
Moreover, even if artificial gravity can be used to live in a changing low-gravity environment for a long time, what harm will it cause to the human body? After all, tourists will only stay there for a few days, but the staff may stay for several years.
However , the support of the national government and some top wealthy people does make the space hotel no longer just a dream of Nanke , at least moving forward step by step. As long as the action can be implemented, the space hotel will not be unattended in the early stage.
▲ Picture from: "Connect" magazine
One interesting thing is that Roman & Erica, a travel company for ultra-rich customers, worked with Axiom Space in 2018 to attract the rich to buy huge tickets. At the time, those people were laughing at the idea of the space hotel.
But after an unpredictable 2020, the founders of Roman & Erica said that they no longer think this is a crazy thing. Now the conversation between the rich and him is:
This is very interesting.
How long does the training take?
Where do I need to train?
What's the deposit?
Do I need to pay 55 million USD in advance or in installments?
Science fiction, science fiction movies, and the exaggerated publicity of space companies always make it difficult for people to distinguish reality from fantasy.
We need to see the possibilities, and we also need to sort out the real ups and downs: time, capital, technology, security, business model…
The future of the space hotel is brighter than at any time in the past, but it is still an expensive and undecided game.
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