Frisky Vacations in Space

Fly Me to the Moon: The Tourism World
Girds Up for Vacations in Space

By Buck Wolf

Feb. 3, 2001 — There's no doubt Earthlings will be vacationing in space. The big questions are — how soon, who will cater the gourmet meals, and how great will the sex be at zero gravity?

Several companies are investing millions and promising service on "floating hotels in the sky" in the later half of the decade. Frommer's has already published a travel guide to the moon. And the Rochester Institute of Technology now offers a 10-week, two-credit course in space tourism development.

"We all saw Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, says Frommer's writer Werner Kustenmacher. "Soon we will live it. We will go to space as tourist-adventurers to marvel from afar at the blue pearl that we can all call our home."

Kustenmacher says Frommer's saw a "joke value" when it published the moon guidebook. But there's also a reckoning of the reality of space travel. "Everybody knows this is the future," he says. "And we are all pioneers at heart."

Space Tourism 101

How do you serve wine in a weightless environment? Can you smoke in a space capsule without destroying the air regenerators? The students in Rochester want to know.

At first glance, you'd think "Space Tourism Development" is the sort of class the football team takes to keep up their grade point average. But the school has a sound reputation, especially in engineering, and the school is dead serious about hoping to send the first hotel managers and caterers where no leisure professional has gone before.

"The students are taking on problems that now challenge the industry and they are looking for solutions," says professor Clinton Wallington, who says about 50 students have taken his class over the past year, including future engineers, marketers and tourism executives.

"Students break into teams for projects … the marketers are asking questions about who will go into space and at one price. Others deal with details like food-service packaging, insurance, safety and comfort."

In mid-February, Gene Meyers will come speak to the school about the Space Island project. His lofty plans involve raising money to buy Boeing's space shuttle division and having a commercial space station ready by 2007.