Would you want to stay in a space hotel?
It was intended to set the travel world on fire: Aurora Station, the world’s first in-orbit hotel. The official announcement took place last April during the Space 2.0 Conference in San Jose, California. Housed aboard a structure about the size of a large private jet, guests would soar 200 miles above the Earth’s surface, enjoying epic views of the planet and the northern and southern lights.
世界上第一个围绕地球轨道的太空酒店“极光空间站”（Aurora Space Station），就是为了引爆旅游世界。去年4月，在加利福尼亚州圣何塞（San Jose）举行的太空 2.0 大会（Space 2.0 Conference）上，该酒店的官方通告正式发布。在这个大小和大型私人喷气式飞机差不多的结构体里面，旅客可以在地表200英里之上遨游太空，尽揽这颗星球的壮丽景色以及南北极光。
A jaunt won’t be cheap: the 12-day-journey aboard Aurora Station, scheduled to be in orbit by 2022, starts at a cool $9.5m (£7.3m) per person. Nevertheless, the company says the waiting list is booked nearly seven months ahead.
“Part of our experience is to give people the taste of the life of a professional astronaut,” says Frank Bunger, founder and chief executive officer of Orion Span, the firm which is behind Aurora Station. “But we expect most guests will be looking out the window, calling everyone they know, and should guests get bored, we have what we call the ‘holodeck,’ a virtual reality experience. In it you can do anything you want; you can float in space, you can walk on the Moon, you can play golf.”
法兰克‧巴格（Frank Bunger）是开发极光空间站的公司 Orion Span 的创始人兼执行官。他表示：“我们极光空间站的体验其中之一是要让人们体会职业宇航员的生活，但是我们期待大多数旅客会望向太空酒店的窗外，并与每一个他们认识的人通话；如果旅客们玩倦了，我们还有一个称为‘全甲板’的虚拟实景体验。此时，你可以做任何你想做的事情，比如你可以在太空中漂浮，或在月球上漫步，你还可以打高尔夫球。”
Think of Aurora Station, which concluded a crowdfunding campaign in early February, as “astronaut-lite”, a luxurious descendant of the austere International Space Station (ISS). There will be some similarities: in both, visitors (four guests with two staff) will nap in sleeping bags attached to the superstructure, the food will be freeze-dried, and all guests will have to go through a vigorous pre-launch health screening. The journey to Aurora alone means being subjected to 3Gs of gravitational force.
把极光空间站想象成与国际空间站（ISS）想象类似，规模较小但却更加豪华奢侈，相似之处在于：极光空间站的访客（4位旅客配两名工作人员）也是睡在的绑紧的睡袋里，吃的是冷冻干燥食物，所有旅客都得经过发射升空前的严格的健康筛检，而前往极光空间站的旅程本身也要受引力的 3G 所制约。
Aside from gazing out at the stars and back at Earth, it is expected that Aurora visitors will spend some of their stay tending micro-gravity experiments such as growing food, as is currently done by crews on the ISS. But there will also be some differences: water will be imported with each round of guests, rather than being processed from their own urine.
Many in the science community see this as the inevitable next great leap for mankind. But there is that age-old adage of looking before you leap; to say that civilian space travel is in its embryonic stage is almost overstating how advanced it is. Even as the media gushed over Aurora, the experts were far more cautious.
“I mean, Aurora Station is a nice gadget,” says Christian Laesser of the Research Center for Tourism and Transport at the University of St Gallen in Switzerland. “But if it will be implemented remains to be seen.”
瑞士圣加仑大学（University of St Gallen）旅游及交通研究中心的莱塞尔（Christian Laesser）这样表示，“我的意思是，极光空间站是一个很棒的玩意儿，但是这个项目能否实现还是个未知数。”
“At the moment space tourism is a field where reality, hoaxes, and science fiction are mixed up in such a way that it makes difficult to distinguish between reality and wishes,” adds Robert A Goehlich of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, who gives the only class in the world dedicated to space tourism.
“眼下的太空旅游领域，现实、骗局和科幻小说鱼龙混杂，这令人们很难辨别现实与愿望，”安柏瑞德航空大学（Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University）的格利希（Robert A Goehlich）补充说。他在该大学讲授世界上唯一的太空旅游课程。
Both agree that space tourism is already a thing; it began in 2001 when American Dennis Tito paid the Russian Space Agency a reported $20m for a seven-day visit to the ISS. Some countries are already laying the groundwork for the future of the industry; 10 commercial spaceports are already taking shape across United States, for instance. Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and arguably Aurora Station’s biggest cheerleader, points out the USA has regulations on the books in the form of the Commercial Space Launch Competitive Act, passed in 2016, that addresses issues such as liability, indemnification, responsible parties, and risk.
他俩一致认为太空旅游已经确有其事。太空旅游始于 2001 年，当年美国人提托（Dennis Tito）支付给俄罗斯空间站（Russian Space Agency）2000万美元到国际空间站旅行了7天。一些国家已经在为这一行业的未来做准备工作；例如，10个商用太空船发射降落场已经在美国多地开始动工兴建。斯塔默（Eric Stallmer）是商业航天联盟（Commercial Spaceflight Federation）的主席，也可以说是极光空间站最大的支持者。他指出，美国已经以《商业太空发射竞争法》（Commercial Space Launch Competitive Act）的形式列明了规章制度，该法案于 2016 年获得通过，解决了太空旅游的债务、赔偿、责任方和风险等方面的问题。
Likewise, neither Goehlich and Laesser are naysayers, but both take a wait-and-see approach to whether civilian space tourism firms can deliver, and how. What is still to be determined are the safety and engineering standards for a civilian space vehicle. Bunger describes Aurora Station, with its newer technology, simplified systems, and smaller area (thus avoiding more micrometeor collisions), as safer than the ISS, but even he admits it won’t be insured until the moment it lifts off.
But that raises an even bigger unaddressed questions C where will Aurora Station be launched from and where will guests be retrieved from once they return to Earth’s surface.
Moreover, this is an industry where setting dates is a recipe for disappointment. Virgin Galactic, which had its first successful to-space-and-back test flight in December, is still nine years behind schedule, SpaceX and Blue Origin are still testing their vehicles, and XCOR Aerospace declared bankruptcy in 2017. There is a very real possibility that older candidates on the various waiting lists may “age out” of the running, or develop health conditions that exclude them. The Aurora Station module itself is not even set to be constructed until later this year.
此外，在这一行业里，设立确定的日子无异是为了让人深感失望。维珍银河（Virgin Galactic）在去年12月首次进行了成功的太空往返试飞，但进度仍然晚了9年。美国太空探索技术公司（SpaceX）和蓝源公司（Blue Origin）仍在测试飞行器；而 XCOR 航空航天公司（XCOR Aerospace）则在 2017 年宣布破产。极有可能的是，各种等候名单上年纪长一点的候选旅客可能会因为年龄渐长而退出，或者因健康状况被排除在外。极光空间站的舱体本身在今年晚些之前甚至都可能不会动工修建。
Then there are the health issues. In the case of Aurora Station, people suffering from claustrophobia, even slightly, should think twice about a booking a room in a property 43.5ft long by 14.1ft in diameter (it’s not like you can open a window). Because objects, including the fluids in the body, tend to rise in low gravity, guests should prepare for some unflatteringly moonfaced selfies, with the added bonus of nausea as the stomach adjusts to weightlessness.
接下来的就是健康问题。拿极光空间站来说，舱体长度达43.5 英尺、直径达 14.1 英尺，，而且窗户并不像你想象的那样可以打开，罹患幽闭恐怖症，甚至轻微幽闭恐怖症的人们对此应该三思而后行。原因在于，包括人体体液在内的物体往往会在低重力环境中往上升，因此旅客们自拍时应该有心理准备，因为体液上涌，你自拍结果将是有损形象的“满月脸”。此外，还有一个额外的好处要送给旅客，那就是胃部因适应失重环境而产生的反胃，头晕和呕吐。
Long-term exposure to zero-g weakens the bones and changes the structure of the eyeball radically enough to affect sight; being just 12 days in antigravity means guests will not have to worry, although staff definitely will. Happily, microgravity does not adversely affect menstruation (although issues with storage of sanitary items and limited washing water may prompt female astronauts to go on the pill). Because of the kinetics involved, Nasa requires astronauts to abstain from sex, which may take some of the romance out of such a trip.
More alarming are the charged particles entering the cabin that could potentially cause genetic damage; as insulated as space vehicles are, they are not fully proofed against such cosmic radiation. Astronauts in the past have reported seeing flashes of light, which researchers surmise are cosmic rays hitting the optic nerves or visual cortex in the brain.
“You cannot execute a space mission, in particular a commercial manned one, ‘a little bit’ or on a ‘let’s try and see if it works’ basis,” Goehlich warns. “You need safe operation of the spaceships, an environmentally friendly operation, and ultimately an economically profitable operation.”
But Laesser sees space tourism as a natural progression, noting that extreme environments have only slowed, but not impeded, exploration. He states, “If you go back 30 years ago, Antarctica was impossible, and now people are going to Antarctica. We have these new frontiers, space is just the latest one which might be open.”
Exactly when it will open, however, no-one is quite sure.