Video of the Day: Making tacos in space

Preparing your own meals while on the road can be tough. You don’t always have a proper kitchen stocked with all of the tools and appliances that you need. Ingredients can be difficult to find. Still, at least we always have gravity to help us out. Not so for astronauts. When it’s dinner time, they have to assemble their tacos in zero gravity. The last thing that anybody wants is refried beans in the ventilation system. Think of this guy and his space taco the next time you want to complain that the kitchen in your RV is too cramped.

Space tourism celebrates tenth anniversary

space tourism, Dennis Tito
Space tourism
is ten years old this week. On 28 April 2001 millionaire Dennis Tito became the first person to go into space as a tourist and not an astronaut or scientist.

In an interview with BBC today he talked about how thrilled he was and called his eight days being in orbit “paradise.”

While space tourism is the ultimate in high-cost adventure travel–only seven people have done it so far and Tito is said to have paid $20 million for the privilege–private companies are hoping to make it more widely available. They also want to make it more comfortable. Tito was crammed “elbow to elbow” in a Russian capsule after NASA refused to put him on one of the Space Shuttles. Not that he cared at the time. Check out this video of Dennis Tito’s arrival at the International Space Station. The guy’s euphoric!

A number of private companies are looking into commercial space travel. The most serious contender is Virgin Galactic, which has already built a spaceport and put their spaceship Enterprise through a test flight. The company hopes to push an orbital trip down to $200,000, just one percent of what Tito paid. Who knows? Maybe good old free-market competition will push the price even lower than that.

Even more ambitious is Excalibur Almaz, a company based in the Isle of Man that has bought some Russian space capsules that they’re refurbishing. They boast that they’ll offer trips around the Moon by 2015.

Best of luck folks, but I won’t be looking for a Lonely Planet Outer Space in the bookstores anytime soon.

[Photo courtesy NASA]


Space tourism already getting cheaper!

Space tourism may still be a few years from taking off (pun fully intended!) but competition is already bringing the price down dramatically. According to this story from MSNBC, a company known as Space Adventures has partnered with Armadillo Aerospace to make space tourism relatively affordable. In this case, “affordable” means $102,000, which is almost half the cost of rival Virgin Galactic’s proposed flights on SpaceShipTwo.

Unlike Virgin Galactic’s two-stage space plane design, Armadillo is developing a more traditional vertical launch system. Tourists will sit inside a capsule that will be propelled by a rocket 62 miles into the sky, taking them to the very edge of space. Once they reach that altitude, they’ll be treated to five minutes of weightlessness and a 360º view of the Earth below. The entire flight time will be less than an hour in length, but the price tag does include several days of training as well.

Space Adventures already has a track record for sending tourists into space. The company has partnered with the Russian Space Agency to send clients to the International Space Station, with several very rich travelers spending upwards of $35 million to take the journey. In those cases however, the space tourist actually spends several days living aboard the ISS.

Both Virgin Galactic and Armadillo are currently conducting tests on their flight systems, and while neither company knows when they’ll begin sending regular flights into space, most believe it won’t happen until 2012 or later. Who knows, by then there may be a third privately owned space tourism company that will be driving prices down even further.

So, what do you think? Would you pay $100,000 for a chance to go into orbit?

First space hotel to open in 2012

Adventurous travelers hoping to one day go into space received good news yesterday when the Barcelona based company behind the Galactic Suite Space Resort announced that their orbiting hotel will open for business in 2012, ushering in a new era in travel.

The world’s first space hotel will begin operations with just a single pod that can hold up to four guests and two pilots. Other pods will be added over time, increasing capacity as needed. The zero-g resort will orbit the Earth at 30,000 mph, completely circling the planet once every 80 minutes, while offering visitors 15 sunrises per day. The cost of a 3-day stay starts at $4.4 million, which includes an eight week training course on a tropical island that will prepare would-be astronauts for life without gravity. Travel time to the hotel will be another day and a half aboard a shuttle craft.

The Galactic Suite project got quite a boost recently when an anonymous billionaire, who is described as a “space enthusiast”, invested $3 billion to the project. With their coffers over flowing, at least for now, the company is able to move ahead with their time table, despite warnings from critics that feel the time frame is too ambitious and dangerous.

Galactic Suites claim that more than 200 people have already inquired about staying at the hotel, with 43 of them actually putting in their reservations. Someone should probably warn these future guests that there is no concierge and room service will likely be awful, but the view is going to be unmatched for sure.

NASA focused on commercial space travel

Crossing oceans isn’t enough for you? Well, NASA is working to scratch the most extreme of travel itches. The organization is putting $50 million of economic stimulus cash from the feds into putting the average traveler into space. Companies eager to develop a commercial space vehicle have 45 days to submit their proposals, and the winner will be announced by the end of September.

The program comes at a time when NASA is drastically changing its approach to space. After seven more missions next year, the space shuttle fleet is going to be retired – with the final touch being the completion of the International Space Station. Then, we’ll be outsourcing our space travel to Russia, with U.S. astronauts hitching rides to the space station. Cargo will be shipped to this extraterrestrial spot – 225 miles from Earth – by rockets and capsules being developed by SpaceX and Orbital Sciences.

So, commercial space travel appears to be the key to getting the United States back into the game. Some big names have shown some interest in building the vehicles, including Boeing, Retro Aerospace, Davidson Technologies and Emergent Space technologies.