A gravity-free holiday awaits

2 October, 2018 | Will we be holidaying in space within the next decade? Sir Richard Branson says yes, lift-off is in a matter of months, not years. Here’s what your trip might look like.

Orion Span's Aurora Station

Whether it’s a moonbreak in a luxury space hotel or spending two weeks orbiting 320 kilometres above Earth, a gravity-free holiday is no longer a thing of science fiction. According to entrepreneurial space cadets it’s all about democratising space travel. But at R140 million a pop it’s hardly a holiday for the people. One reason Houston-based space-hotel developers Orion Span says it can target a price of less than $10 million per person is because of declining launch prices.

If you need to think about putting in leave, then you aren’t rich enough to apply. But for those who can, a space break is the new black and needs to be ticked off the bucket list. Best to book and go before the concept becomes passé.

Budget to luxe

The really budget break is R2.6 million on Virgin Galactic – it only goes to sub-orbital space (about 100 kilometres). It floats around for about five minutes, then it’s back to earth.

To really chill and get the full-moon experience, Orion Span’s Aurora Station is billed as the ‘first luxury hotel in space’. You need to be there a lunar day, which is 30 Earth days but, according to the experts, you won’t get bored. There’s a lab for zero-gravity research, a holodeck for a peek into the world of virtual reality and internet connection too… so, yes, you could probably ‘phone home’. The module is 50m2 and can accommodate four guests and two crew. Orion Span hopes to launch the modular station in 2021 and host its first guests by 2022.

Not for the spontaneous

It’s not ‘a-pack-up-and-go’ vacation, though. Prior to launch, Aurora Station guests would have three months of training, beginning with online courses to understand ‘basic space flight, orbital mechanics and pressurised environments in space’. Then there is the blast beyond the atmosphere 386 400 kilometres away. It takes about three days to reach your destination without any 1-Stops for padkos along the way.

Accredited space agents (they do exist) will wax lyrical about the extraordinary views. History buffs will enjoy seeing the six Apollo landing sites, particularly where Apollo 11 landed in the Sea of Tranquility, or astronaut Neil Armstrong’s perfectly preserved footprints. Be sure to request an Earth-view room – the same side of the moon always faces Earth and you don’t want to spend your holiday staring out into, er, space.

Around the world

For adrenalin junkies, the alternative is the luxury platform orbiting 320 kilometres above Earth that will set you back R1 million a night. It offers six guests 384 sunrises and sunsets as they race around the planet for 12 days at very high speeds. Here’s a spoiler though – don’t expect to be sipping on craft G&Ts or snacking on canapés. It costs around R98 000 just to get a bottle of water into space, and every drop has to be recycled, including your own body fluids.

There won’t be a cooked English breakfast either. Food on the flight is ‘iffy’. It comes in tightly wrapped packages and it’s not the taste buds but rather the label that identifies it. And don’t even think about sneaking some grub onto the flight. Ask the crew of Gemini III after they squirrelled corned-beef sarmies on board. There was a disciplinary and a congressional hearing to discuss the matter. Not because they chose to defy the spartan diet but because even the tiniest crumb can cause havoc with spacecraft machinery.

This article by Kathy Malherbe originally appeared in Issue 41 of Private Edition. 

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