Fancy a vacation 220 miles above the Earth's surface?
Houston-based Axiom Space has set a 2020 launch date for sending tourists to the International Space Station (ISS) for a 10-day stay. The cost, which includes a 15-week astronaut training program, is $55 million.
"Axiom’s aim is for some of the most influential people on the planet to participate in science, industry and the arts on-orbit, while experiencing the 'overview effect' of seeing our fragile planet and all of humanity as a single unit," the company states in a press release. "These pioneering influencers and their related philanthropic entities will benefit from this perspective-altering, holistic view of Earth and its inhabitants and make world-changing choices that will benefit us all."
Axiom's announcement comes only a few weeks after Orion Span, another Houston-based startup, announced its own plans to place a luxury space hotel called "Aurora Station" into orbit by 2021. The cost of that 12-day adventure was pegged at just under $10 million, which looks like a bargain compared to Axiom's offering but in reality fails to factor in the biggest expense of all.
"The lion’s share of the cost comes from the flight up and down," Axiom CEO and former NASA veteran Mike Suffredini told The New York Times. "Rocket rides are expensive. You know people" — meaning competitors — "don't know what they’re talking about if they’re quoting prices substantially less than what we're stating."
Seeds for the world's first commercial space station
Should Axiom's pitch encourage the very rich to punch a ticket to the ISS, the company plans on eventually using its resources to build the world's first commercial space station. Wisely, the current idea is to piece together the necessary modules while tethered to the ISS. Upon that station's retirement — an end date still very much in the air over at NASA — Axiom would undock from the ISS and soar over Earth on its own. So confident is the company about creating its own luxury space destination that it's already hired famed French designer Philippe Starck to craft the station's plush interiors.
"My vision for the habitation module on Axiom Station is to create a comfortable egg that is inviting with soft walls and a design perfectly in harmony with the values and movements of the human body in zero gravity," Starck shared in a release. This "comfortable egg" would include suede-textured walls with hundreds of embedded nano-LED lights capable of changing color depending on the time of day.
"Just as all the shades of lights and colours of day and night, the egg will also live to the mood and biorhythm of its osmotic inhabitant," Starck continued.
While Axiom's price tag might seem exorbitant compared to the $250,000 per ticket estimate for something like Virgin Galactic, Suffredini is quick to make a distinction. One, he tell the NY Times, is a thrill ride, while the other is more a meditative journey.
"The guys who are doing Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic are going to the edge of space — they’re not going into orbit," he said. "What they’re doing is a cool experience. It gives you about 15 minutes of microgravity and you see the curvature of the earth, but you don’t get the same experience that you get from viewing the earth from above, and spending time reflecting, contemplating."
Those interested in being one of the first to purchase a ticket to the ISS through Axiom can learn more on the company's website..