why play with a zero-g playboy bunny

March 13, 2012

Another month, another ambitious plan for a space hotel and this time, the plans come from Playboy, which is apparently interested in setting up a resort in orbit and modeling it in the finest retro-futuristic tradition. You’ll be able to play around hundreds of miles above the Earth with Playboy bunnies in luxury and comfort, as well as join the 225 mile club and have some very unusual and exciting vacation video to bring home. At least this is the plan. Considering that the ISS isn’t exactly a resort with wide-open spaces and cost some $50 billion to build over more than a decade, one could certainly be forgiven for taking these grand ideas with a big pinch of salt and relegating this whole concept to a PR stunt. But you know what? I hope that Playboy will decide to get in touch with SpaceX and Bigelow, and go through with this plan because they can not only make money on it, they can also help advance space travel and lower the cost for getting into, and staying in orbit. It’s going to be a huge challenge but so is every ambitious new idea, and once you’ve successfully set up a shiny new space hotel, the second one will be easier, building on the lessons of the first one. So why not just try it and see?

Believe it or not, there’s no shortage of people with the money and will to go into space because they’ve pretty much exhausted their getaway options and want to have a chance to journey beyond this planet and see what so few people have gotten to see with their own eyes. And with these tourists on board you can’t exactly serve freeze dried ice cream and call it a day. Oh no. They’ll need basic creature comforts and internet access since they’re going to be wired on Earth and expect to stay wired in space. The orbital hotel would be a tiny economy and an experimental launch pad for designing bigger and more comfortable space stations. Maybe they want to try and experiment with artificial gravity as well, designing their pinwheel to spin so its occupants could use the walls as a floor and enjoy the views of Earth below as they sip their drinks from cups and glasses instead of sucking them through a straw? And best of all, there’s going to be a real motive to make sure the hotels are as comfortable as they could be for tourists coming from the planet below rather than simply leave everything as bare bones as possible and train them for months to just deal with the little discomforts of space. Big and roomy orbital hotels made of inflatable kevlar and simulating at least a fraction of Earth’s gravity will be easier for serious astronauts to inhabit as well, and allow them to be more productive and comfortable.

So if anything, we should be encouraging Playboy to build their space hotel and promoting space tourism as the new way to vacation. Since we find manned space programs on a tight budgetary leash everywhere but in China, and government help to boost the number of humans and human-friendly habitats in orbit won’t come soon, why not let ambitious private companies build them to generate PR and revenue? Why not let them use their millions to solve problems with space debris and lowering the cost of getting to space? When they hear millionaires and billionaires opening their wallets for even a chance at the experience of a lifetime, why stand on the sidelines and snicker at the ambitious CEOs with his head in the clouds when we should be thinking about incentives to push successful business’ gaze skyward? We’re living at a time when space hotels could actually be built and the sooner we acknowledge that, the sooner we start building and populating them with paying guests and reaping the benefits of massive R&D programs once only see in sci-fi movies and written about in novels about the far ftuure. It’s just getting past the first hotel that’s the really hard part here…

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  • Bruce Coulson

    The history of travel is rife with examples of the ultra-wealthy looking for a vacation/resort that was ‘out of the ordinary’; away from the common people, and something they could boast about to their rivals.

    And each time, a support network sprang up to make money off the desires of the wealthy. Business being what it is, the cost of these tours began to decline as the network expanded and found cheaper ways to get people to their destination and house them in comfort while they were there.

    Eventually, the wealthy got crowded out by the merely well-off, and the network continued to encourage people to vacation at these locales, merely setting the sales pitches to the middle class.