Extraordinary claims, but no extraordinary evidence

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.)

8 comments to Extraordinary claims, but no extraordinary evidence

  • IntrospectionPraxis

    I have to wonder if perhaps this company is not a competitor to Bigelow but rather a client. Has anyone considered the possibility that they plan to use Bigelow modules to accomplish this?

  • Ferris Valyn

    introspectionpraxis – I wondered that too, but they talk about their proposed station/hotel, and it is very different from a Bigelow setup.

    Now, they could be saying one thing and planning another, but generally that is frowned on by the business community.

    So, I think they would be considered competitors.

  • Ed

    They must be “thinking in Bold Strokes!”

    more vapour-ware and not much detail to back it up. Would be nice to have a little more info regarding this venture.
    Hope to see that it is the real deal.
    But in this industry there tends to be a lot of hype and promises of unattainable target dates.
    Maybe they are part of an experienced venture…perhaps a group that has been involved in actually launching something off the ground.
    If this is the case maybe they have already learned to walk before trying to run. Perhaps they have attained the financial backing claimed.
    I guess the proof is in the pudding…so to speak.

  • Ed

    the registry data shows that the ip address and domain was registered in Spain…not sure what that means other than there is not much else in the way of info. My “Feeney senses” were tingling but this looks like it might be European.
    I just hope it is real.

  • Jeff Foust

    A couple of notes:

    1) Robert Bigelow has repeatedly said that he is not in the space hotel business, so Galactic Suite, if there is any substance to this venture, would not be a direct competitor. It would instead be a competitor to any venture that was considering leasing Bigelow modules for their own space hotels.

    2) All the news reports have made it clear that Galactic Suite is based in Spain, so the fact that the domain is registered there is no surprise.

  • Chance

    Alan Boyle blogged on this as well. Seems like they are pretty much full of it.


  • […] Galactic Suite formally announced their plans in August to develop a space hotel by 2012, generating a burst of publicity as well as unanswered questions about their funding, schedule, […]

  • […] As Jeff Foust notes, except for Alan Boyle’s coverage at MSNBC, the articles in the MSM have been pretty much posted straight from the press release with no questions asked: Extraordinary claims, but no extraordinary evidence – Personal Spaceflight – Aug.15.07. […]

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