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It is destined to revolutionize the world of travel, to change our vacations, to discover landscapes from a height where very few have arrived.
It’s the Aurora space station, the first space hotel in the world.
His official announcement took place a year ago during the Space 2.0 Conference in San Jose, California, and since then he has not stopped winning enthusiasts around the world.
Housed aboard a structure the size of a large private jet, guests would sleep 200 miles above the surface of the Earth, with the epic views of the planet and the lights of the north and south through the windows.
An excursion will not be cheap: the 12-day trip aboard the Aurora Station, which is expected to be in orbit by 2022, starts at US $ 9.5 million per person .
However, the company says that the waiting list already reaches seven months in advance.
Copyright of the NASA image
“Part of our experience is giving people a taste of the life of a professional astronaut ,” says Frank Bunger, founder and CEO of Orion Span, the firm behind Aurora.
“We hope that most of the guests look out the window, call everyone they know and, if they get bored, we have what we call ‘holodeck’, a virtual reality experience where you can do whatever you want, from floating in the space, walking on the moon, playing golf … “, he adds.
The space hotel
Aurora will be built with a crowdfunding campaign and many see her as a luxurious descendant of the austere International Space Station (ISS).
There will be some similarities between the two: visitors (four guests with two employees) will rest in sleeping bags attached to the superstructure of the station, food will be freeze-dried and all guests will have to pass a vigorous health examination prior to the launch.
In addition to watching the stars and returning to Earth, visitors to Aurora are also expected to contribute to experiments in low-gravity conditions, such as growing plants, as do the ISS scientists.
But there will also be some differences: the water will be imported with each round of guests, instead of being processed from your own urine.
Copyright of the ORION SPAN image
Many in the scientific community see it as the next great leap inevitable for humanity.
But this new form of civil space travel is in its embryonic stage and experts are cautious when talking about Aurora.
“The Aurora station is a nice toy, but we’ll have to see if it actually gets implemented, ” says Christian Laesser, from the Research Center for Tourism and Transport at the University of St Gallen in Switzerland.
Robert A. Goehlich, of the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, believes that today, space tourism is a field where reality, deception and science fiction are confused in a way that makes the distinction between reality and desires difficult.
Both agree that space tourism is already a fact; It began in 2001 when the American Dennis Tito paid the Russian Space Agency U $ 20 million for a seven-day visit to the ISS.
The challenges of space tourism
Some countries are laying the foundations for the future of the industry: 10 commercial space ports are already taking shape in the United States.
Eric Stallmer, president of the Federation of COMMERCIAL SPACE FLIGHT, says US it even has regulations in this regard, which address issues such as liability, compensation and risk.
But although Goehlich and Laesser are not detractors of the idea, both recommend being cautious and seeing if the civil companies of space tourism can comply with what they announce.
And is that one of the issues yet to be determined are the safety and engineering standards for a civilian space vehicle.
Copyright of the ORION SPAN image
Bunger describes the Aurora Station, with its innovative technology, simplified systems and smaller area (which will help avoid more micrometeor collisions), as safer than the ISS , but admits that nothing will be ensured until the moment of takeoff.
The latter raises other questions: from where the Aurora Station will be launched and the flights to it or from where the guests will be rescued once they return to the surface of the Earth.
Also, keep in mind that this is an industry where setting dates is a recipe for disappointment.
Virgin Galactic, which had its first successful test flight to space and back in December, is still nine years behind in its projects.
SpaceX and Blue Origin are still testing their vehicles, and XCOR Aerospace filed for bankruptcy in 2017.
There is another possibility that goes against the project: that the older candidates in the different waiting lists can “grow old” while they wait or develop health conditions that exclude them.
And is that the Aurora module is not even configured and is thought to begin to be built later this year.
Then there are the health problems.
In the case of Aurora Station, people suffering from claustrophobia, even a little, should think twice about reserving a room on a property 13 meters long by four in diameter.
Because objects, including fluids in the body, tend to rise in low gravity, guests should prepare for some selfies with an inflamed face, with the added disadvantage of nausea as the stomach adjusts to weightlessness.
Copyright of the ORION SPAN image
Long-term exposure to zero gravity weakens bones and changes the structure of the eyeball enough to affect vision.
Fortunately, microgravity does not adversely affect menstruation (although problems with storing sanitary items and limited wash water can be a problem for astronauts).
Due to the kinetics involved, NASA also requires astronauts to refrain from having sex , which may draw some of the romance from that trip.
More alarming are the charged particles that enter the cabin, which could cause genetic damage.
At the height at which space vehicles are located, they are not fully protected against cosmic radiation.
The astronauts in the past reported seeing flashes of light, which according to the researchers, are cosmic rays that strike the optic nerves or the visual cortex in the brain.
“You can not run a space mission, particularly a manned commercial, with doubts about whether it will work, we need a safe operation of the spacecraft, an operation that respects the environment and, ultimately, an economically profitable operation” , warns Goehlich.
But Laesser sees space tourism as a natural progression.
He points out that extreme conditions have only slowed, but not impeded, exploration.
“If you look 30 years ago, going to Antarctica was impossible and now people are going in. We have these new borders , the space is only the most recent one that could also be opened for us,” he says.
But nobody is sure when it will happen.