Weekends in orbit are latest holiday offers

IF THE prospect of two weeks in Marbella bores you and even a walking holiday in Patagonia fails to excite you, perhaps it is time to start planning a long weekend in space.

Within three years this may mean a day trip to low earth orbit or, by 2017, at a holiday resort resembling a cross between a theme park and a cruise ship where space tourists can stay for as long as they like.

These and other such plans for holidaying 200 miles above the Earth's surface were unveiled yesterday at the World Travel Market, the tourism trade show at Earls Court exhibition centre, in west London. Guests must travel lightly and be prepared for space sickness, but highlights include the opportunity for weightless sex in one of the honeymoon suites and some awe-inspiring holiday snaps.

Howard Wolff, vice-president of Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo (WAT&G), a US architectural firm specialising in leisure resorts which has designed a 100-room orbiting hotel, said: "An increasing number of people are seeking some kind of transformative experience. They are looking for more than a vacation on the beach and want something more to show for it than just a tan. And what could be a more life-transforming experience than seeing our planet from 200 miles up?"

Mr Wolff is confident that there is a market for space tourism and, in the US at least, it is an idea that appears to have taken off. More than 93,000 people have put their name down on PanAm's waiting list for flights to the moon while 15 million visitors went to land-based space attractions last year. In a survey of 1,500 north Americans, 34 per cent said they would be interested in a two-week trip aboard a space shuttle.

WAT&G's orbiting resort would use recycled external fuel tanks salvaged from future space shuttle launches. There will be a viewing deck on board with computer images to help guests identify which parts of the Earth they are looking at. Guests will be served food grown hydroponically on board and can keep fit by playing ball games in zero gravity.

"It's like developing a new, vast and wonderful frontier," Mr Wolff said. "But the point will be to strike a balance between creating an out- of-this world experience and providing some creature comforts that travellers have come to expect from other destination resorts."

Podium, page 4

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