Toward Distant Suns
by T. A. Heppenheimer
Copyright 1979, 2007 by T. A. Heppenheimer, reproduced with permission
Chapter 10: Lovers, Colonists, and Explorers
Space tourism might begin even before there is a space colony, with the building of an orbiting vacation resort. In 1967, at a conference of the American Astronautical Society, the hotel entrepreneur Barron Hilton (son of Conrad) stated that if space transport costs fell to $5 per pound, he would build a hotel in orbit. Actually, inflation has turned Hilton 's $5 per pound into what in today's dollars would be more like $10. With reasonable provision for baggage and for the food and oxygen to be used by the orbiting tourists, a round-trip ticket then might cost $4,000 or so. This is not much more than twice the cost of a round-trip transatlantic ticket on the Concorde and is similar to the costs charged for many cruises by ship. Since the Cunard Line has successfully sold tickets for their most luxurious round-the-world cruises at up to $97,000, the potential is obvious.
The possibility of a space hotel then rests, as does so much else in space, on the availability of low-cost rockets. The scramjet, discussed in Chapter 5, is an entirely new form of engine, which offers the prospect of an aircraft that will fly to orbit as if it were a fast jet plane. The day will come when vacationers can reserve seats on such a