While the world is grappling to come to live with the new norms set by the outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic last year, individuals and businesses are finding ways to stay afloat, if not survive, this Armageddon. Ways that are out of this world even. Quite literally.
In a matter of weeks, we learned that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will become the first billionaire to make it to space if and when things go as planned, and as early as July. Then we read about Richard Branson dropping possible hints that he could be joining the race too, with his Virgin Galactic spaceflight perhaps making a maiden trip to space on the July 4th weekend.
And here we have something even more fascinating; the first space hotel is all set to open in 2027. The initial plan by Gateway Foundation was to open the Voyager Station in 2025, but COVID made them change plans to a later date.
The construction will begin sometime in 2026 by construction company Orbital Assembly Corporation – claimed to the first large-scale space construction company in the world. The hotel, a rotating facility, will be a 50,000 sqm facility and will be able to accommodate some 450 people.
This sounds fabulous and even a bit surreal, doesn’t it? A hotel in space! Well, the idea used to float around from as far behind as some 70 years ago, when the Hilton head honcho at the time Barron Hilton referred that there would be a Hilton hotel in outer space and he would live to see the opening.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t live up to that dream, but people had taken notice. The idea had first been seeded into the curious minds when the hotel chain, during a stage show in 1958, unveiled the Lunar Hilton – a Hilton on the moon.
The news died out slowly afterward, but it sprung back up in 2009 on the sets of TV series Mad Men when Don Draper and his team are working on a fictional campaign for a Hilton Hotel on the moon. In the series, a character named ‘Connie Hilton’ says, “I want a Hilton on the Moon; that’s where we are headed.” Connie could be the reference to the founder of the hotel chain, Conrad Hilton.
However, it was his son Barron who was the actual dreamer. In 1967, Hilton announced a grand plan at an American Astronomical Society conference, including orbiting and lunar hotels. This was two years before Neil Armstrong step foot on the moon even.
The Lunar Hilton was to be an underground hotel on the moon. It would have three levels – the bottom one where the equipment would be kept, the engineering happened, the middle level with q00 guest rooms, and the top level would be a public space with a cocktail lounge. Guests would be able to order a drink and enjoy it with a background of the earth and other space objects.
Another fascinating feature is how the bartenders would prepare the drink. They press a button, a pre-measured, pre-cooled mixture of pure ethyl alcohol and distilled water will come out. A tablet will be added into this – a capsuled or solidified form of the alcoholic spirit of preference – and voila. As well as the hotel, the plan also included the Orbiter Hilton, which would have been a space lab with 14 levels and which could accommodate 24 people. This was intended for short trips in space where guests can have ‘stopovers.’
The whole plan was no joking matter for Hilton. He went far and beyond to speak with experts in the aviation and engineering industry. He consulted with Don Douglas, chairman of the McDonnell Douglas aircraft manufacturer at the time. He got a feasibility study done by students from the Cornell University who prepared complete sketches and props.
They must humor the space enthusiast at the time – but look who the joke is on now! It is fascinating (yes, that word again – an absolute understatement) how a dream, and some nudge from technology, man, can achieve anything, ANYTHING he dreams and wishes for. Meanwhile, if people plan to get out of this world for survival or leisure, it could mean that mother Earth can take a long, much-deserved break. One can dream, no?