The birth of space tourism

Fletcher Smith, Reporter

New designs for Orbital Assembly Corporation’s (OAC) space station, named Voyager Station, were recently unveiled, showing a luxuriously designed hotel that contains the usual amenities found in hotels while finding ways to integrate the magic of space into it. Construction of the station is set to begin by 2026, and OAC expects it to be completed by 2027. 

The station will be built in space, with OAC planning on using heavy launch vehicles, like SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy or their still-in-development Starship, to put together different parts of the station with each launch, similar to how the International Space Station was constructed. The station will have 24 modules that can include air, water, and power modules, a gymnasium, a restaurant, and living modules, which will be used by the crew and private citizens. The station can hold up to 280 guests at once, and will be the largest man-made object in orbit around Earth.

According to the Voyager Station website, the station will rotate to simulate gravity, and the gravity of the habitation ring, which is on the outside of the station, will be about one-sixth that of Earth’s gravity, similar to the moon, and gravity will decrease as one moves closer to the middle. The station plans to sell modules on board for companies and government agencies to conduct research in both low and zero gravity environments. This research is not only expected to produce new technologies, but the research done in low gravity simulations may be used to help our understanding of places in the Solar System that have low gravity. This understanding will help humans adapt better to these new environments, allowing for longer stays and more research to be conducted at a single time.

The station is only one of several ambitious projects and missions intended to have private citizens on board that have been announced within the last few months, and more should be expected to come, but, as of now, the two other recently-announced major missions are Inspiration4 and DearMoon.

Inspiration4, set to launch near the end of 2021, is a mission funded and conceived by SpaceX, St. Jude Hospital and American billionaire Jared Isaacman, and it is looking for three civilians that embody generosity, prosperity and hope to join Isaacman as the first mission to space with only private citizens on board. Hayley Arceneaux, a physician’s assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and a bone cancer survivor, was the first civilian announced to join the mission, and will be Inspiration4’s member that embodies hope. The two other members are expected to be announced in the coming months. Inspiration4 is expected to be the first orbital space flight with only civilians on board.

However, not all of these trailblazing missions plan on staying parked in orbit around Earth. DearMoon is a mission conceived and funded by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, and will send Maezawa, a small professional crew, and six to eight members of the public on a journey around the moon. The mission is set to launch in 2023 aboard SpaceX’s Starship, which is still in development, and, if successful, would be the furthest humans have ever ventured from Earth since the Apollo missions.

These missions seem to be the start of something big as more and more people are starting to become interested in space travel. With space becoming more of an economically viable option for companies to conduct research and send people, space tourism is becoming an increasingly lucrative industry, and these recent events may be described in future textbooks as the birth of the space tourism industry.