By know you’ve probably read about the venture, first reported Friday by Reuters, that is planning to develop a space hotel by 2012. I had held off on commenting about this development, in part because I’ve been on travel the last few days, but also because I’ve been trying to find out more about the “Galactic Suite” effort.
In general I have been disappointed with some of the uncritical reporting on this, not only from Reuters, but also from other sources, like The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail in the UK and even SPACE.com. (One refreshing departure is MSNBC, which notes that “it’s not yet clear exactly how much backing is behind the design concept”.) I am skeptical about the claims that this venture will have a space hotel flying in 2012—or any time in the foreseeable future—for at least a couple major reasons:
- The original Reuters article claims that “a space enthusiast decided to make the science fiction fantasy a reality by fronting most of the $3 billion needed to build the hotel.” “Most” would imply an investment of well over $1 billion, perhaps over $2 billion, which is very difficult to accept at face value. There are people putting tens or hundreds of millions into projects (Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, Robert Bigelow, for example), but billions? Look at all the trouble Rocketplane Kistler is having trying to raise $500 million, for something that is a lot more realistic.
- It’s not at all clear how people will get to and from this space hotel once it’s in orbit. Artists depictions in the news reports and on the web site either show a winged vehicle, not like any orbital vehicle under active development, at the station; one even shows a space shuttle (!!) being used to assemble the hotel. A space hotel is no good if the guests can’t get there.
The conceptual design of this facility is certainly intriguing, and it’s clear a lot of thought has been put into this design. It is not at all clear, though, that this is anything more than a design project at this point in time. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” Carl Sagan once said. Galactic Suite has certainly satisfied the former condition, but not yet the latter.
(Note: I have contacted Galactic Suite with some questions about this project, but have not received a response yet. If I do get any information from them that clarifies these issues I will pass it along.)