As companies like Virgin Galactic get ready to usher in the era of space tourism, British students at Imperial College London have gone one step ahead and come up with designs for a space hotel!
A hotel in space obviously throws up various problems, including the lack of gravity, moisture, and the issue of solitude noted by many astronauts. Under the guidance of space architecture expert Daniele Bedini – who has worked for NASA and ESA – the students came up with innovative solutions for clothing, nutrition, hygiene, exercise and entertainment.
Team member Katrin Baumgarten, who worked on the clothing aspect, said: “There are no washing machines or tumble dryers in space so we had to design clothes that enabled the skin to breathe, which reduces sweating, smells and the need for clothes to be washed. We achieved this by using natural fibres that breathe and we also made small chest flaps, which let the air in to keep the body cool and comfortable.”
These transparent chest flaps also add the element of fashion, she said, as the colourful inner clothes you wear become a sort of style statement. But carrying and keeping clothes in space is a problem; so the students have also designed a collapsible, seven-pocketed bag that lets you store seven changes in vacuumed spaces.
The students were also challenged with finding new bedding for people sleeping in zero gravity, which could restrain the body without making the sleeper feel claustrophobic. The students designed single and double sleeping bags that were large warm cocoons, with soft elastic covers that could restrain the sleepers, so that people could be comfortable without feeling like they were hemmed in.
As for nutrition, a ‘food computer’ lets you input what you want to eat, and then “prints” out the same in rows of small cubes. It doesn’t sound very appetizing, but at least you won’t have a pesky waiter asking “Shredded or diced?”
As for a post-meal call of nature, the students designed smaller toilets that do not require the user to buckle himself down with belts – instead, the ergonomic seats will let you hold on easily. The toilets also have the suction power of a vacuum, to counteract zero gravity and help human muscles to remove waste more effectively.
For personal hygiene, a specially-designed shower nozzle spits out water when it is pressed on the skin and then sucks the water back up again after it has been used for washing. This would stop the water from being left floating as globules in zero gravity. What’s more, little bars of shampoo can be put into the large, pen-like shower handle to wash your hair.
And to counter boredom on a space hotel, where you have nothing but vast amounts of empty vacuum around you, a “space pet” will keep you company. It is essentially an autobot that hovers with you through the hotel, acting as a concierge, showing you different places, clicking pictures and generally keeping an eye out for you.
The students believe this would be an important aspect of the experience for tourists who would wish to capture their trip for posterity and show it to friends and family on Earth.
For a video of the students talking about their project, click here.