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Space Tourism, Now and to Come 123

bart_scriv writes, "BusinessWeek looks at the latest in space tourism, from a $20 million Soyuz trip to a $200,000 ride via Virgin Galactic. The article looks at existing and planned opportunities, with a slide show of photos and artist's conceptions of vehicles and facilities. From the article: 'Among the other wonders of space is the planned Bigelow Aerospace space hotel. Similar in design to the International Space Station (which has kept a constant human presence in space since 2000), the hotel has a modular design that will allow it easily to expand. The key difference is that the hotel's modules will be inflatable. Bigelow Aerospace launched the Genesis I test module into orbit on July, 2006, and plans to send Genesis II in early 2007.'"
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Space Tourism, Now and to Come

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  • by BlahMatt ( 931052 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @04:43PM (#16047960)
    am excited to be travelling through space in a large inflatable ball... what could go wrong?
    • Dunno. Maybe the smoking rooms?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by WindBourne ( 631190 )
      About the same as being in a metal can. In fact, it might be less. It should be self-sealing while the can is not as easy to do that with. In addition, the can makes LARGE amounts of noise and that is causing issues for the astronauts/cosmonauts.
    • Just remember not to use the axe until you're close to the white door [eristic.net].
  • by w33t ( 978574 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @04:46PM (#16047978) Homepage
    Of course, my friend asked me, "Are you worried about the rocket blowing up?"

    "Not really," I said. "After all, when I kick-it I plan on having my ashes and a sample of my DNA shot into space anyhow. As long as the rocket makes it to space first, I think it would actually be a pretty good deal."
  • Space Ball! (Score:3, Funny)

    by DaveJay ( 133437 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @04:46PM (#16047985)
    Call me when they put a huge, inflatable arena in space, and start holding athletic events there. Somewhere between Ender's Game and Jocks In Space there's got to be a sweet spot of entertainment...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TrippTDF ( 513419 )
      You're being funny, but I think you might have a point there. How much money does the US spend on sporting events in a year? How many possibilities are there for weightless sports? I think once you bring your cost of launch down, this could become a sigificant revenue stream, but it's still at least 40 years away.
      • by DaveJay ( 133437 )
        Oddly enough, I wasn't being funny, and agree with you completely, for exactly the reasons you state. :)
      • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) *
        I think once you bring your cost of launch down, this could become a sigificant revenue stream, but it's still at least 40 years away.

        40 years away? People are already assembling sports leagues to compete on the weightless flights operated by the Zero Gravity Corporation [wikipedia.org]. Here's an MSNBC article, Zero-gravity sports are close to reality [msn.com]. Of course, whether or not the business plans are economically viable remains to be seen.
        • You are referring to the Zero Gravity Sports League, which my company is building. We're also looking to make amateur Zero Gravity Football tournaments happen for those who sign up at http://spacechannel.tv/ [spacechannel.tv]
          • If you're going to play football in a giant inflatable space balloon, you're going to take those pointy ended flags away from the refs right? Also presumably steel cleats would be a bad idea. "And Jim Johnson is headed for the thirty, the forty, " Spontaneous decompression, Woops, there goes another one!
          • > We're also looking to make amateur Zero Gravity Football tournaments

            Amateur? Amateur? With the money required to get people into space, you're not even gonna pay 'em a token amount? They're supposed to help you profit on their own dime? Methinks the hotel will set up such a league and sell it directly to some network, if anyone cares.

            Wait! I have a better idea.

            1. Invent space travel
            2. Make cost effective for tourists
            3. Pr0n ...
            Profit!
            • I see once again the Slashdotter fails to RTFA. Since Zero Gravity Football take places on an airplane, Amateur tournaments would not be going to space.
      • What about the movie industry? How much do they spend filming 10-second sequences in the Vomit Comet? I can imagine that shipping a few actors into orbit to spend a week filming zero-g sequences would be comparatively cheap (and if it takes less expensive-actor time, a lot cheaper), and would allow much longer sequences to be filmed, reducing the editing workload significantly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by monopole ( 44023 )
      Great idea as long as we stipulate that we won't be bringing the jocks back.
    • Nah -- screw athletics. They only make money because they can appeal to a large number of low-income folks. Since the per-person travel costs are so high, you'll have to start at the upscale end of the ladder: Blue Man Group in space, Cirque de Soleil in weightlessness -- that kind of thing. You want to attract the people who'd not just be willing, but actually able to afford $200k to see Barry Manilow floating around.

      • The Barry Manilow Concert... that's a one way trip for him? Please say yes...

        They could call their promotion company Gigsssss Innnnn Spaaaaaaaace....
    • 3 words (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RsG ( 809189 )
      Zero. G. Porn.

      There's your 21st centure business model :-)

      Although, cleaning up afterwards would be a challenge... ...and I don't even want to think about what would happen to the instruments if they tried zero-G Bukkake :-(
  • More junk to monitor (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cyphertube ( 62291 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @04:48PM (#16047997) Homepage Journal

    As if there wasn't enough junk to try to monitor in space and worry about falling to earth, now we're going to have private enterprise try to make a buck or two off of going to space.

    Government contractors worry me enough, but what happens to a space hotel when the business runs out of money? I can see this going through a boom and bust cycle like just about every new business, and I want to know. It's not like running lots of fiber optic cable and then going bankrupt. Who's going to take care of the degrading orbit of the hotel?

    • by w33t ( 978574 )
      Sounds like an opportunity for a new business insurance industry.
    • by no_pets ( 881013 )
      I'm sure anything like a hotel in space will be sold. And if it's not then perhaps space pirates will claim it.
      • Sort of like William Gibson's "Red Star, Winter Orbit".
      • Interesting point (Score:2, Interesting)

        by zogger ( 617870 )
        Are there any salvage laws yet? What is "abandoned" in space? Everything up there was at one point pretty darn valuable, just from the sheer launching costs let alone any tech it represents.

        I would imagine that once private industry is up there all the time, that "space junk" will become a valuable resource and won't be allowed to just de orbit and burn up. They'll do something with it.

        • >> As if there wasn't enough junk to try to monitor in space and worry about
          >> falling to earth, now we're going to have private enterprise try to make
          >> a buck or two off of going to space.
          >
          > I would imagine that once private industry is up there all the time, that
          > "space junk" will become a valuable resource and won't be allowed to just
          > de orbit and burn up. They'll do something with it.

          Never let a capitalist solution get in the way of a good old-fashioned socialist hate-on
          • I know if it was me up there, no junk gets tossed! I keep about everything, you ought to see my worn out lawnmower collection, let alone ancient computers and other electronic gadgets. I even cut the cords off of really busted stuff and save those-hey, you never know when you might need a plug! My space station would look like sanford and space sons....
    • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @04:56PM (#16048052)
      > Government contractors worry me enough, but what happens to a space hotel when the business runs out of money? I can see this going through a boom and bust cycle like just about every new business, and I want to know. It's not like running lots of fiber optic cable and then going bankrupt. Who's going to take care of the degrading orbit of the hotel?

      Gravity.

      Interesting economic question: What's the salvage value of an abandoned ISS? If it costs $10000/lb to send something to orbit, the ISS is worth its weight in gold.

      But if you buy an abandoned space station for $1.00, and use its $10000/lb "value" to finance the building of rockets that cost $1000/lb to send fuel into orbit before your space station's orbit degrades, you've just cut the value of an abandoned hunk of metal by a factor of ten. Oops, those were also your company's assets! The bank calls your loan, and you're sunk.

      Then some other guy buys you out for pennies on the dollar, and flies your $1000/lb rockets to his space hotel, and makes a go of it.

      I suspect that much like wiring a nation with fiberoptics, the early bird gets the worm... but the second mouse gets the cheese.

      • I still don't get how you convert the ISS to its salvage value? I mean unless you can build a recycling plant in outerspace, space junk is just...space junk.
      • I'm not sure I completely understand you. The ISS might've cost $10000/lb to send there, but its value depends much more on what it can be used for rather than on its initial costs. I could send a 5 ton ball of solid shit into orbit but I doubt anybody would be willing to pay even $100 for it.
        • Actually if someone was planning on building a large (for some deffinitions of large) orbitall colony would probably pay a nice sum for your orbiting fertilizer.

          Mycroft
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by J05H ( 5625 )
          Actually, I would buy a 5 ton ball of shit in orbit. Someday I want to grow trees in space, and that would make for some cheap fertilizer. Rednecks in Spaaaaaace!!

          On Grandparent post - every rocket launched and payload developed has specific debris-mitigation efforts. US commercial payloads must pass through AST's debris process. Debris is an issue, but it's a small step compared to regenerative life support or deep space radiation issues.

          Josh
      • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @05:57PM (#16048426)
        If it costs $10000/lb to send something to orbit, the ISS is worth its weight in gold.


        Nope. A thing is only worth what someone is willing to pay, it's costs are irrelevant. There's no such thing as intrinsic value.

        That means you have to start with... What is someone willing to pay for a week in orbit? Then ask how many people can we get into the thing, how long will it last. Then you have an approximate measure of what the ISS might be worth to a space hotel operator.

        There are no space hotel operators at the moment and nobody else really knows what to do with the thing, which means that if the ISS were abandoned tomorrow, it would literally be worthless.
         
        • If it costs $10000/lb to send something to orbit, the ISS is worth its weight in gold. --- Nope. A thing is only worth what someone is willing to pay, it's costs are irrelevant. There's no such thing as intrinsic value.

          Straw man arguement. ISS is worth it's weight in gold, or platimum, or whatever else you want to barter. Remember, it's in orbit, weighs nothing....

          Bigelow is in the hospitality business, in a 'not small' way, I'm sure he understands a few fundamentals about building and running a h

          • ISS is worth it's weight in gold, or platimum, or whatever else you want to barter. Remember, it's in orbit, weighs nothing....


            Actually everything in orbit has weight, as it's constantly falling towards earth. If the ISS was weightless it would fly off into space.
            • go back to basic high school physics, learn the difference between weight and mass. The ISS may have lots of mass, but, the gravitational forces on it are pretty much zero, resulting in zero weight.
              • There is plenty of gravitational force on the ISS. What else do you think is keeping it in orbit?
    • by MBC1977 ( 978793 )
      "now we're going to have private enterprise try to make a buck or two off of going to space."

      Is this a problem? What's wrong with trying to make money by providing a service? Granted the first one's in are going to have to go through growing pains
      but that is how innovation begins. Unless you want to go back to the horse and buggy? lol.

      Regards,

      MBC1977,
      (US Marine, College Student, and Good Guy!)
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by 2gravey ( 959785 )
      Well, since it's inflatable, if it's abandoned, shuttle astronauts could just make a quick detour past it and toss a dart at it.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Whoa, easy there, Karl Marx! Try not to get your panties in a wad over the idea that this very sacrosanct forum is a private enterprise trying to make a buck or two off of your crying like a little bitch with a skinned-knee and shit. I might not be a rocket scientist, but I sometimes imagine some 15 year old starting a fire that turns the whole place in to space dust. Or, while I may not be a physicist, how about the 5 year old who diligently works to puncture the walls and the whole enchilada goes zoomi
      • How dare we humans pollute the vast worthless emptiness of space! How dare you horrible, horrible people support such efforts! If we start building hotels in space where does it stop! What becomes of the habitat of the Great Humpbacked Space-Whale! Seriously, though, if NASA isn't ever going to get us off the ground (and its not) then kudos to anyone who gives it a shot.
    • by DrCode ( 95839 )
      Eww! It's bad enough when bird droppings land on your head, but now we have to worry about used condoms too??
  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) * on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @04:55PM (#16048040) Journal
    Every time there's an article about Bigelow Aerospace here, there's a dozen or so commenters who are convinced that because the modules are self-expanding, they must therefore be delicate and vulnerable to space debris. In reality however, the walls of their modules are quite durable, probably even more so the aluminum walls of the International Space Station. The walls will be composed of multiple layers of materials like kevlar (the stuff used in bullet-proof vests) and vectran, resulting in a wall 16-inches thick. They've done a number of projectile tests, with results which compare favorably to NASA's.
    • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatman.gmail@com> on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @05:04PM (#16048119) Homepage Journal
      In fact everyone can now see for themselves [bigelowaerospace.com] what the Bigelow station looks like. Surprisingly, it looks a lot like just another space station. Seeing it deployed like that, it looks a heck of a lot sturdier than Slashdot impressions would lead you to believe. :)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sm62704 ( 957197 )
      Every time there's an article about Bigelow Aerospace here, there's a dozen or so commenters who are convinced that because the modules are self-expanding, they must therefore be delicate and vulnerable to space debris.

      They're probably confusing them with these guys. [imdb.com]
    • And check this out.... They'll fly your picture up into space..... http://www.bigelowaerospace.com/fly_stuff/photos/i ndex.php [bigelowaerospace.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by otter42 ( 190544 )
      To be specific, Bigelow Aerospace bought NASA's TransHab program [wikipedia.org]. Apparently it's all siting out in a warehouse somewhere in Las Vegas. So it's no surprise that their technology compares favorably with NASA's-- it's based on it. (I know this only because I had a long conversation yesterday with a friend who works there, designing their robots and integrating the avionics package.)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) *
        As the anon coward said, by "NASA's technology" I was referring to aluminum walls, not NASA's technology in general (which includes Transhab). It's really too bad that Congress forced NASA to abandon Transhab, as it could've helped them to construct the International Space Station at a much lower cost, and probably with a larger size.

        For any readers who might be unfamiliar with Transhab, there's a rather nice history of the project, and its further development by Bigelow:

        A History of the Genesis I Private S [blogspot.com]
    • by deviceb ( 958415 )
      fabric architecture is advancing fast. many things that used to be done with solid structure can be done with this type of architecture. It's prob. alot easier to get this stuff into space rather than aluminum like the ISS uses.

      In the end i would rather be in the traditional deathstar rather than a ..deathbubble
  • Space traveli (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Reality Master 101 ( 179095 ) <RealityMaster101&gmail,com> on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @04:55PM (#16048046) Homepage Journal

    I don't considering suborbital trips to be space travel, so I'm glad they're talking about some of the real players trying to bring orbital travel to be affordable.

    My great fear is that the marketing machines are overselling suborbital "roller coasters", and when that is an abject failure, we'll see less investment in real orbital trips. Orbital is at least an order of magnitude harder than suborbital (if not more), so it's possible that some investors could be spooked away.

  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) * on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @04:56PM (#16048050) Homepage Journal
    WMV [armadilloaerospace.com] or MPG [armadilloaerospace.com] video just posted by John Carmack of Armadillo Aerospace's test hover.
  • How High is Space? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @05:00PM (#16048082) Homepage Journal
    "The site's elevation 4,700 feet above sea level will also make for a shorter trip into space, saving on fuel costs."

    Isn't Earth's escape velocity constant, regardless of how far you travel to escape it? I don't see dropping off quicker with only 1 mile "head start" so much of the acceleration to escape velocity is against less weight, with constant mass requiring constant acceleration fuel.

    Wouldn't the Equator's 26 miles extra distance from the Earth's center (compared to the distance at the poles) make it an even cheaper launch site?

    Even if all these factors count, isn't Ecuador's low lattitude and high altitude the best combination? Forget a space elevator, how about just an escalator up the Andes?
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Isn't Earth's escape velocity constant, regardless of how far you travel to escape it?

      Escape velocity is irrelevant; what you care about is orbital velocity, or rather, the delta-v (change in velocity) necessary to reach orbital velocity. The delta-v certainly does depend on your location, since both your gravitational potential energy and your kinetic energy due to the Earth's rotation vary with location and altitude.
    • by paladinwannabe2 ( 889776 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @05:13PM (#16048171)
      No, escape velocity [wikipedia.org] is dependent on distance from the Earth. Remember that gravity gets weaker the further you are away from its source. It is slightly easier to escape from the equator than it is at the pole, so you are right that the Andes would be one of the best places to put a space elevator (or just a launch pad).
      • How did this get rated +5 informative? The difference in gravity loss between sea level and the top of the highest mountains is negligible. More correctly - escape velocity is the distance between the object and the center of the earth. The Earth's radius is about 6370km, the tallest mountains are about 6-7km high. So you are really comparing escape velocity from 6370km and from 6377km The difference in velocities is in the ten-thousanths of a percent.
        • The difference between effective gravity at sea level and the top of a tall mountain is not huge; much less than the difference between the poles and the equator. It does have some other advantages though. For one thing, the weather tends to be more predictable at the top of a mountain, since it is often above a lot of weather systems. Also, don't forget that even the smallest differences can be worthwhile, since you have to pay for lift twice when using a rocket; once to lift the rocket, and once to lif
        • Yes, it's true that the difference in escape velocities between a mountain top and sea level is only about 0.05%- a trivial difference. Getting a mile head start on leaving the atmosphere helps a lot, though.
    • The real benefit of high altitude launch is that rockets work much better when they don't have to work against a full atmosphere of back pressure. To throw in some real numbers, an engine I'm working on has an Isp (efficiency, basically) of 190 at sea level, but 290 in vaccuum. So a high altitude launch can decrease the amount of fuel required - and remember, rockets are normally running right on the edge of feasibility, so using less fuel is very important.

      But as you point out, you don't have a "shorter t
  • Does it come with caffeine-free diet Sprite and receive Fox news?

    Rumor also has it that Johhny Depp, John Daly and well as other rock stars/bands and athletes would have to pay a hefty deposit. "It's damn hard to replace the windows although an advantage we have over our "grounded" competition is that should such hotel trashing take place, it would be fairly quiet. What many of these stars don't understand (well besides Sigourney Weaver) is that in space, no one can hear you scream".

  • will most likely be developing a tug for moving between the moon and earth. Once bigelow gets the hotel working, it would make sense to use these for moving between the moon and earth. In fact, I would be surprised if Bigelow does not have several groups designing these at this time as well as a true lunar lander i.e. a craft that will remain in the lunar arena.
  • Does this mean we can finally send Rob Schneider off the planet?
  • How do we regulate space? Don't think we won't have to. We can regulate our own air space but with the need for orbits, for there to be regulation at individual country levels, that's alot of stuff in geosychronous orbit.

    Who would be the regulating body? If we leave space up to the private sector and traveling by space becomes a viable alternative, what's to stop the private companies from gouging the consumer? I'm sure we could find a way to regulate on an international level through a conglomerate made of
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      There's a whole existing body of law around this - Oceanic law, naval law, whatever you call it. No one owns the ocean, and yet ships are represented by their respective countries, do business, have environmental impacts (oil spills come to mind) etc. Whats to stop private cruise ship companies from gouging the consumer? Fair market I guess, plus whatever regulating body the terrestrial company is owned by. And this thing will really get off the ground once Virgin, Amidillo, etc start getting craft into
      • by Ynsats ( 922697 )
        Well, since most nations govern thier own air space, how do we regulate how high that air space goes? One of the largest air space issues is the threat from other countries using not only airplanes but orbital craft to covertly spy on other countries. We assume that the private sector has controlled air space and regulated themselves because we don't see the government agencies behind all air traffic in any country until something goes wrong. Then every administration, department and ministry is on the TV t
        • I think at some point there's a reasonable limit to what you can claim as "viable" airspace. As for the general airspace, those are already being regulated with "spaceports" already designated in the US. (And a lot others on pacific atolls, etc). Generally they're in areas devoid of commercial air travel and population density. I don't believe that at > 100 miles anyone can still claim dominance over that particular airspace. It just isn't practicle. If a country wants to monitor launches, etc. tha
    • Yaaarrrr...Law ends with gravity, me bucko! I'll be out riding the solar wind guided by His Noodly Appendage. Ain't that right, Parroty Error? "Awwk, pieces of seven, pieces of seven"
  • Please reassure me that the Bigelow Aerospace Space Hotel does in fact come with blackjack and hookers...
    • by ZSpade ( 812879 )
      Please reassure me that the Bigelow Aerospace Space Hotel does in fact come with blackjack and hookers... I reassure you, Begelow Aerospace hotel's do not come with Blackjack. You'de be too busy with the tripple breasted hookers to play it anyway.
  • I'm wondering if the Virgin Galactic ship is simply an up then down affair, or will it take off from one port and land in another.

    A sub-orbital jaunt could easily turn a 20 hour flight into a much shorter trip.
    • Virgin Galactic's ships (AFAIK) land at the same place they took off from. Doing sub orbital travel is a lot harder, (closer to orbital travel in some ways). But being able to travel to the other side of the planet in ~45 minutes would be cool...
      • Virgin Galactics ships exist only as a figment of the imagination. _If_ they actually do get built, they are intended to be a simple up/down event.
  • Since you can apparently see Genesis I when it does a fly by, is it really to crazy to think that there could be a giant glowing sign attached to these modules? http://www.bigelowaerospace.com/fly_stuff/corporat e.php [bigelowaerospace.com] is already looking at some marketing angles (but on a much smaller scale...$300 for logo in space/on their site).

    While I think it could be cool to be able to send contained personal stuff into space, I'm not so wild about the "big sign" possibility. Maybe I should be more worried about the
  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @06:57PM (#16048756)
    Please scratch archery off of the list of possible recreational activities that guests may indulge in.

    Thank you,

    Bigelow Aerospace Management

    • Shooting an aarow in an enclosed space is probably not a good idea in any circumstnace.... And from what I read, they said in an interview that the side of Genesis is as hard as concrete when its inflated, so it would bounce off anyway...
  • Virgin Galactic? Space tourism? Seems sombody have their heads too full of hot air. We are still barely able to get outside Earth's athmosphere; the galaxy and even interplanetary space are still decades away, at least as tourist resorts. Just think about it - have you ever been to one of those socalled 'luxury' resorts on this planet, where your room (which you are only going to sleep in) is equipped with a big kitchen, a bed that could sleep three people, a living room with two tvs etc etc; and everything
    • > Now imagine how much fun it would be, being confined to what is basically
      > a big sack of gas with absolutely nothing to do and REALLY nowhere to go.

      Just a bunch of wealthy, non-obese, non-elderly males and females, all alone, with no gravity. What to do? What to do?
  • In other news this morning, apparently Branson has offered Wm. Shatner a free trip... but he's too scared to go (unless they pay him...)

    eg. http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2-2006410413,00 .html [thesun.co.uk]

    Ok, so maybe we should give the guy a break since he's 70-odd, but really if you got that far mightn't you just want to do that one last big thing whether it killed you or not?
    • I can see it now, as soon as he gets up there: "Ha ha! I did it! I drugged her and pushed her in the pool! What ya gonna do now?!?! What now? Uh-huh"
  • On a related note, Anousheh Ansari is set to become the first female space tourist. She will be blasting off in 11 days. http://www.anoushehansari.com/ [anoushehansari.com]
  • I find a bit of irony that a member of the Ansari family who contributed many of the millions for the contest to stimuate private space travel is jumping the gun and taking a conventional space flight. I cannot fault her for this. She's generously given millions already. At her age she is in her prime for space travel. If she had to wait 10 to 30 years for private orbital travel to become a reality, she may be too old to safely make the trip.

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