Space tourism will one day become a major industry in space. Our space program calls for using tourism as one of the many ways to generate income. However, we feel that just going into space is not enough; that what the regular astronauts does in space must be experienced by the space tourist as well.
This is the story of one of one of those "typical" tourists. I put typical in scare-quotes because these individuals are not really typical; they are multi-millionaires (minimum) who enjoy the better things that life has to offer simply because they can afford it. This has been, unfortunately, the only way that new technology has advanced. Oh well. All we can say is that these millionaire vacationers will help pave the way for everyone to go into space... eventually. In the mean time, we can go there in our imaginations.
So as a "typical" multi-millionaire interested in space travel, you purchased a ticket for a vacation in space. The price paid was $5M (USD) for 9 days in space, and $1M in escrow in case you do not pass the pre-spaceflight physical. So what do you get for your money?
You wake up on a Thursday, and head directly to your doctor. After several hours, the doctor confirms that you have passed a standard space flight physical. You don't want any last-minute surprises.
The next day, Friday, you and all of your family and friends hop on your private jets to fly to Spaceport America, located in sunny New Mexico, USA. Everyone checks into a hotel and settles in for the night.
The next day, Saturday, everyone takes a tour of the Spaceport facility, as well as the Skylon spacecraft and it's facilities. You celebrate your upcoming flight with friends and family that night.
What Spaceport America could look like one day...
The next day, you and the rest of your fellow space travelers are placed in quarantine, and then pass the company standard flight physical, at which time the $1M (USD) is transfered back to your account.
You are briefed and trained on Skylon and LEOS emergency procedures. This includes the Space Rescue Ball, where you zip yourself inside a pressurized ball with a handle on the outside, and breathe through an oxygen mask. You can then be transported from a spacecraft that has lost pressurization. A space-suited astronaut would move you around using the handle. It's a bit claustrophobic, but everyone agrees that this is better than trying to breathe in a vacuum, which ain't gonna happen.
You go to bed that night full of anticipation for the launch tomorrow. Sleep is elusive.
The next day, Monday, you and the rest of the tourists have a final breakfast, and suit up in tourist orange (to spot you better, in case of an emergency). You and the crew are led out to a van, where you are driven out to the awaiting Skylon spacecraft.
The Skylon Spaceplane
The Skylon looks like any ordinary airliner, except for its stubby wings and engines mounted on the wing edges. The open door with a stairwell on the port side of the spacecraft shows the way in.
Continued over the fold...
You exit the van and board the spacecraft, just as any other passenger would board an airliner. You walk up a short flight of stairs and into the cabin.
The Skylon Passenger Module
The cabin looks like any other ordinary airline cabin. Seats are arranged facing forwards, with 2 seats on either side of the central aisle.
The interior of the Skylon Passenger Module
After taking your seat and strapping in, the Skylon is towed to the propellant apron, where the Liquid Hydrogen fuel and Liquid Oxygen oxidizer is loaded into the spaceplane.
Once everything is loaded, the Skylon is towed to the runway for takeoff.
The takeoff is like a typical airliner: the Skylon places the engines at full thrust, and the spaceplane goes down the runway.
The nose lifts into the air, and the Skylon climbs out. The landing gear is retracted, and the space liner accelerates into the sky.
You feel the same experience as any airliner. So far.
At a certain point in the flight, the engines switch over to rocket mode, and the fun begins. The Skylon points the nose at an impossibly high angle, and the spaceplane accelerates to space.
After the engines cut off, the Skylon coasts up to it's target orbital altitude. The payload bay doors open, and, for the first time, you get to see outside the spacecraft. Welcome to space!
And what a sight is indeed.
Eventually, a bright speck in the distant grows to an entire city in space.
The Low Earth Orbit Station (LEOS)
The Skylon slowly approaches, then docks with, the LEOS. After pressure is equalized, the hatches are opened. You now vacate the Skylon, and enter the LEOS. One of the LEOS crew is there to guide you to your quarters.
You enter your quarters and begin unpacking. You settle in for the day. There is a window in your room, and the view keeps you enthralled for hours.
It's now dinner time, so off you go to the galley. Everyone else is there, sitting on either side of a long table. You get your plate, which is a fantastic 4 course meal. You relax for a great mix of great food, great company, and great conversations.
After dinner you retire to the galley for the rest of the night. The view outside is mesmerizing, but it is time for sleep.
You wake up the next morning and hit the showers. The toilet and shower are one unit, so in case of an unfortunate accident, clean up becomes a snap.
After breakfast, the tourists muster at the Commons Module to begin the tour of the LEOS. You get to see the Bridge, where the LEOS command center is located.
Then on to the Remote Pilot Station, where the spacecraft working around the LEOS are controlled remotely.
Sick Bay is next, and you are impressed with all the latest and greatest medical equipment you see. Relatively minor operations, such as the removal of an appendix, can be performed here.
Engineering is last, where all LEOS systems and functions are controlled.
Unfortunately, you are not allowed in the EVA Module, but, the EVA experience does await you.
The next day, Wednesday, you pack up for a 3-day excursion on an OUV. This is the part of the vacation that you were looking forward to the most. You and the other tourists are to undock and leave the LEOS.
Orbital Utility Vehicle (OUV) docked with the LEOS
Once inside the OUV, you stow your gear and await the journey. Once everyone (and everything) is secure, the pilot undocks with the LEOS, and moves away from it. Once again, you get to see the LEOS in its entirety.
Slowly, the LEOS begins to shrink, then finally disappear. Now you are experiencing what early space explorers felt: that sense of awe and loneliness when comparing your tiny craft to the vastness of space.
You and your shipmates are "camping" in space, so none of the luxuries of the LEOS can be found here. You eat dehydrated food, and use a wash cloth to clean up. The toilet is still the toilet, and after 3 days, no one wants to use use it because of how nasty it has become. Ah, the many perils of space travel!
The next day, Thursday brings the OUV rendezvousing with another OUV that is repairing a satellite. You watch as the ballet that is the spacewalk unfolds before you, and you marvel at how easy the astronauts make it all look.
Friday is the return trip, where there is nothing, then all of a sudden a bright speck, and then a whole space station. You are thrilled to be coming home - then catch yourself. You have already so fully adapted to this strange and alien environment that you are actually thinking of it as home.
The pilot does the usual expert job of docking with the LEOS. The hatches are open , and you float out of the OUV. It was truly an experience that you will never forget.
And that's only the beginning.
The next day, Saturday, is a free day, and you decide to go exploring the LEOS on your own. There is so much to see, and really, so little time to see it all. But your mind drifts back to the OUV experience, and the one experience coming up tomorrow that will make the OUV journey look like child's play.
You wake up the next day, Sunday, and pack for the overnight event. You are almost giddy with anticipation as you head for the EVA lockers.
This is a place where tourists go to spacewalk. A real live, honest-to-goodness spacewalk. The Z-1 spacesuit has made EVAs vastly simpler, so that only minimal training for the suit is necessary.
The Z-1 Spacesuit
You enter the tourist EVA module, and stow your gear. Since the space suit has an internal pressure of only 3 pounds per square inch (psi), and the LEOS is set at sea-level pressure (14.7 pounds psi), you must purge the nitrogen from you body. This process usually take 7 hours to complete. Our idea is that the tourists will adapt by going to sleep, and the EVA module slowly purges the nitrogen from the atmosphere, and lowers the pressure. When you wake up, you are in a pure oxygen environment at the lower atmospheric pressure. Now you can don the space suit.
Only, the space suit is outside, with the back attached to the side of the module.
The LEOS crew member unlatches a small hatch, and the entrance to the space suit is laid bare. You are helped into the suit, feet first, slide your arms into the suit, and slide your head into the helmet. That's it! The crew member places the life support backback in place, then replaces the hatch. After pressurization is equalized, a green light comes on, and you push yourself forward to release yourself from the docking clamps.
You float forward, with your safety line trailing behind you. You are floating away from the station. You use you line to turn yourself around, and...
The sight takes your breath away. Here is the LEOS laid out, and you get to float around it and check out the view.
Too soon, the experience is over, but you know that you are scheduled for 1 more excursion tomorrow.
You are guided back to your perch, and align the backpack to the entrance port. With everything aligned, the suit is locked into place, and you exit the same way to came in. You talk excitedly to the other tourists, sharing in the moment. Sleep is elusive that night, once again.
The next day, Monday, finds you climbing into you suit once again after breakfast. You are now experienced at this, and know what to expect. After the green light, you pull way from the space station, more confident this time as you gain your space legs.
Your exploration is now more focused, since you're not worrying about anything going wrong like you did yesterday. Today, you can actually enjoy the experience.
Once again, it all ends too soo. You reconnect, and climb out of the suit. You are grinning like a school kid.
Exiting the module only takes a few minutes, as getting back to sea-level pressure is easier. It's good to be back to familiar surroundings - there you go again, calling the place home!
You also get to watch your ride home inching closer to the space station, bringing a new set of tourists and replacement crew. You watch in fascination how, just like the LEOS, the Skylon grows from a bright dot to a huge spacecraft.
The next day, Tuesday, is your last full day aboard the LEOS. You and your new friends have bonded and have developed a true friendship that may even last after you get back to earth. In the mean time, today is a chance to relax and reflect on everything that you have done while you are still in space. You go to sleep that night exhausted but thrilled.
Wednesday brings the flight home. You pack up and meet at the Commons module. You board the Skylon and stow your luggage.
Once everyone is onboard, the Skylon undocks and leaves the LEOS. You are actually experiencing mixed emotions; you are elated at what you have experienced, and yet profoundly sad at leaving. You realize that as lucky as you are to have the finances to experience such a vacation, the truly lucky people are the LEOS crew that get to stay there, while you have to leave. That thought brings a smile to your face.
The Skylon fires its engines to lower its orbit into the atmosphere, and the Skylon reenters it in a fireball. Inside, it feels like another airline ride. The Skylon eventually slows down enough to glide in for a landing. After the spacecraft comes to a halt, the hatch is popped open, and the same van that took you to the Skylon now picks you back up. The van then takes you back to the main area, where your family and friends await you.
This story is what space tourists would experience once our ideas are fully funded. We feel confident that we can compete with any other space travel company, since we offer a better price and a better experience at the same time.
The space vacation described today is one of two that we will be offering in the future. The other vacation will be quite a bit more expensive, but will definitely be worth it.
Of course, that's a story for another day.
A version of this diary was cross-posted at NMSTARG.
The DKos NMSTARG diary series:
- History, Part I
- History, Part II
- Space Port
- Space Plane
- Space Stations
- Space Ships
- Recharge and Resupply
- Lunar Ships
- Lunar Base
- Lunar Propellant
- Clean Up
- Space Health
- Advanced Systems
- Improved Space Station
- Space Vacation
- Lunar Vacation
FULL DISCLOSURE: I work for the New Mexico Space Technology Applications Research Group (NMSTARG), a commercial space flight venture, which in its current form exists as an unfinished technical paper. NMSTARG is not affiliated with any of the businesses that were discussed in these posting. These diaries exists as a way for the DKos community to get a first look at our research, and to ask said community for any technical and non-technical (just as important!) feedback. The paper provides information on how to make a profit in space, detailing the infrastructure that will be needed and all of the associated costs involved. As such, we hope that it eventually attracts the attention of investors, where the paper then becomes the technical portion of a space-related business plan.