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Holiday in space.

Imagine spending your holiday floating in zero-gravity, gazing out of a porthole at Planet Earth, or taking a four-day trip to the Moon for the summer.

The more adventurous could choose a six-month luxury cruise to Mars and climb the peaks of Olympus Mons - the largest mountain in the Solar System.

It may sound like science fiction but private companies worldwide see commercial space tourism as a realistic business target and are competing to become major contenders.

US President George Bush is next week expected to commit Nasa to a manned mission to Mars and a permanent base on the Moon - further boosting man's footsteps into space.

Some ambitions have, however, been reined in. The Florida Lottery recently scrapped plans for a game that would give winners a chance to fly to the international space station.

On April 28, 2001 multi-millionaire, Dennis Tito, became the first tourist in space. At a cost of pounds 14m he was launched in a Russian Soyuz capsule and spent eight days orbiting Earth.

"It was perfect. It was paradise." he said.

One year later, Mark Shuttleworth flew to the International Space Station becoming the first African in space.

But what about the rest of us? Will two weeks relaxing in the sun be as cheap as a sightseeing tour of Earth from a hotel in space?

In 1998 the head of Nasa stated that "within 50 years a space hotel is not inconceivable".

The creators of Legoland theme park - Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo - have designed a space resort that can accommodate 100 people as it orbits 200 miles above the surface of Earth.

The resort - a cross between a theme park and a cruise ship - is expected to be operating in 2017.

Passengers will be ferried to and from the resort by the next generation of space shuttles.

While astronauts survive on freeze-dried, foil-wrapped dinners, guests at the space resort will eat food grown hydroponically on board and will be able to play ball games in zero gravity, to prevent their muscles from deteriorating.

Designers conceive the hotel as being split between two areas - zero-gravity and artificial gravity.

This will allow guests to experience floating in space, whilst providing a refuge for passengers suffering from space sickness.

An area with partial gravity will allow guests to take a shower or sit down for a meal.

Around the world, scientists and engineers are working on hypersonic vehicles that could make low-cost access to space a reality and transform international travel.

There's no set definition of the term "hypersonic", but it is generally taken to refer to velocities more than five times the speed of sound.

With a push from a rocket motor, hypersonic aircraft could take fare-paying passengers into orbit.

International firm MirCorp is planning to build a commercial space station where guests could visit for stays of up to 20 days.

Their website describes the experience of waking up in Mini Station 1 and peering out the portholes: "Instead of seeing the green of your lawn and the blue of the sky, you awaken to the green depth of continents, and the vast blue of oceans sweeping below you, veiled by the dark, starry background of space. Gazing through your glass portal, your house, your city and even the entire world seems so distant and insignificant."

The Space Tourism Society, based in Los Angeles, was created to conduct research and acquire the financial and political power to make space tourism available to as many people as possible.

In the same year that Dennis Tito journeyed to the great beyond, the Space Tourism Pioneer Awards were held to honour achievements in the new industry.

The Dennis Tito award honours people who have paid and trained to go into space.

Dennis realised his dream of blasting off into orbit through "the world's premier space tourism company," Space Adventures.

They offer flights to the edge of the space in Russian fighter jets, zero-gravity flights, cosmonaut training and space flight qualification programs.

Buy your very own acre of lunar land

Those finding it hard to get onto the property ladder have another option available.

For less than pounds 40 you can own an acre of land on the moon.

Planetary investments offer various packages for the first time buyer.

In 1980 Dennis Hope established the Lunar Embassy to parcel and sell of acres of the 4.6 billion year-old ball of rock.

The UN Outer Space Treaty of 1967 stated that no government could own extraterrestrial property, but failed to mention individuals and corporations.

On receipt of your land you will receive mineral rights for your property from the surface to three kilometres below, a lunar constitution containing the lunar laws and your rights as established by the Lunar Embassy.

A map with an X marking the location of your property by latitude and longitude is also included - leaving you with only a few million pounds to find for a personal rocket launch to your new home.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 10, 2004
Words:829
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