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Russian Firm Unveils Plan for Space Tourism

Russian Soyuz TMA-02M space ship that will carry new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, is transported from hangar to the launch pad at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan (File Photo - June 5, 2011)
Russian Soyuz TMA-02M space ship that will carry new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, is transported from hangar to the launch pad at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan (File Photo - June 5, 2011)

A Russian firm has unveiled its plans for an orbital hotel by 2016 and space tours to Mars by 2030. The news comes as Russia has grounded its Soyuz rockets after an unmanned cargo vessel, bound for the International Space Station, failed to launch into orbit. 

Orbital Technologies says it has plans to launch a comfortable space hotel for tourists by 2016. Company officials say the first module will measure about 20 cubic meters, about 706 cubic feet, have four cabins and will be able to hold up to seven passengers.

Orbital Technologies is a subsidiary of partly state-owned RKK Energia, which had helped send space tourists to the International Space Station until last year.

Orbital Technologies Chief Operating Officer Sergei Kostenko says the new station will have many purposes.

The main purpose will be space tourism, to house people, he says. It will be designed and built in such a way that will provide the most comfortable conditions possible for the tourist's space stay.

Kostenko says the hotel will be aimed at wealthy individuals and those working for private companies who want to do space research.

He says the initial cost of a trip to the hotel will be about $50- to $60-million, which is about the same cost as a flight to the International Space Station. He says after that the cost should drop.

Kostenko says the price of a five-day stay at the orbital hotel for a space tourist would be about $1 million.

Company officials say the proposed hotel will be more comfortable than the International Space Station, but it will not be luxurious. Visitors to the hotel will have to use vacuum toilets, take sponge baths and eat space food.

Despite the inconveniences, Anastasia, who did not want to use her last name, is intrigued by the idea of trying out outer space.

She says she would like to take the flight, but only if it becomes more accessible in price, then she says, "I will definitely take it."

Russia is the only country ferrying astronauts to the space station, since the U.S. space agency retired its shuttle fleet last month. NASA is working with several commercial companies to develop a new spacecraft for ISS flights.

Many experts say it will be difficult for the Russian company to reach its goals of having the orbital hotel of opening by 2016 due to lack of funding.

Meanwhile, Russia has grounded its Soyuz rockets after an unmanned cargo vessel headed for the space station failed to reach orbit and crashed in Siberia. It was the 44th launch of a Progress supply ship to the space station - and the first failure in the nearly 13-year life of the complex.

While the International Space Station has more than enough supplies, the accident threatens to delay the launch of the next crew, just one month away.  That is because the upper stage of the unmanned rocket that failed is similar to the ones used to launch astronauts to the station.

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