In June 2019, Nasa announced that astronomically rich tourists would soon be able to visit the International Space Station.
Ten years later, a national publication sent a travel reporter aloft to report on the amenities at the hottest luxury holiday destination in the universe.
The International Space Station is known for many things: High altitude, low crime and, of course, the enormously elevated price of admission. What it hasn't been known for is its food scene. But that may be changing, with the opening of five dining experiences onboard, which include GraviTea, the casual wellness cafe, and Copernicus, an otherworldly temple of molecular gastronomy that is the first restaurant in space to be nominated for a James Beard Award.
That's not all. Buoyed by the investment of visitors willing to throw down big money, the once-humble research facility has blossomed into a virtual oasis in the heavens, complete with exercise classes, luxury accommodations and the best views you're going to find anywhere. Here's how to make the most of your weekend in space.
After a six-hour flight to the station, visitors dock on a Friday evening. Sit through a mandatory safety demonstration - don't touch any buttons! - and you'll be welcomed aboard for your relaxing weekend in space. It's the perfect time to explore your digs and practice doing weightless backflips. Once you've found your space legs, float over to the Harmony module, where you'll be quartered in a closet that's just a little bigger than you - space is at a premium, pun intended - but with deluxe fixtures and toiletries, including Le Labo skin care products. It may not be spacious, but it is mostly soundproof, so that's something!
Next, make your way over to Laika, the kitschy retro-futuristic diner with elevated takes on classic dehydrated astronaut food. Think Tang cocktails and freeze-dried pizza, in a Jetsons-esque module designed by Norman Foster.
Bedtime falls around 9:30, but if you really want to enjoy your first evening aboard, book a private concert from one of the local astronauts (US$4575). He'll serenade you with David Bowie's spaciest songs while strumming away at a guitar.
Saturday morning is the perfect time to take advantage of the station's fitness facility. Astronauts work out for two hours a day to ensure that they're still in peak physical condition when they return from orbit. Your trip may be shorter, but that's no reason not to get in on the fun. Strap in (literally: you don't want to float away) to an exclusive NasaxPeloton bike and let a hologram of Neil Armstrong guide you to the exercise high of your life. At US$600/session (unlimited weekend pass for US$2000), it's a giant leap for fitnesskind.
Space life doesn't have to be strenuous, though! "Living on a spaceship is the most lazy existence you can imagine," says Chris Hadfield, who served as station commander back in 2013. "You're weightless! You don't have to lift a finger. You don't even have to hold your head up."
And you really won't have to lift a finger - or retrieve an errant space sock - if you spring for a private astrobutler (an additional US$25,000) who will attend to your every need. Jeev3s can arrange a tasting of space-aged Ardbeg whisky , or a personal astrophysics lecture from Neil DeGrasse Tyson. He'll also manage your social media presence and update your Instagram, so that friends on Earth can keep up with your journey.
By the time "afternoon" rolls around, you may be wondering, What's the meaning of time when you are floating in space, anyway? When you witness 16 sunrises and sunsets each day? Anyway, there's space yoga and chakras realignment offered every Saturday at 3.
In the evening, get ready for dinner at Copernicus, where a menu designed by chef Wylie Dufresne (and executed by a team that trained at both ElBulli and the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.) puts the "astronomy" in molecular gastronomy. One course might be a very deconstructed vichyssoise - servers will launch globules of pureed potato, leek, cream and chicken stock for you to catch in your mouth. For your entree, try the Wagyu beef prepared sous vide style in gamma radiation. The compressed watermelon salad gets that way thanks to the vacuum forces just outside of the station's walls. The tableware is made from moon rocks. For dessert? An upscale riff on a Mars bar, of course.
Come Sunday morning, it'll be time to take a spacewalk on the wild side. To prepare, you'll need to spend an hour taking in pure oxygen. While you're at it, take the opportunity to personalise your spacesuit with Swarovski crystals (price available upon request). If you're going to float above Earth, you might as well shimmer like the star that you are.
And then - oh, wow, this is exciting - while you're out on your spacewalk, a debris cloud tears through most of the station, instantly depressurising it and probably killing almost everyone onboard. You're able to make it back though the airlock thanks to the heroic sacrifice of your astroguide, but now your miraculously intact module is floating free. Jeev3s isn't answering your text messages, but that's okay. They'll probably prorate for services interruptions when you get home.
There's a machine in one wall breaking down water into breathable oxygen. Its hum is quite calming. Yes. You are calm.
How long have you been here? Your module is spinning, spiraling in the dark. Sometimes you make your way to the porthole and the planet below looms into view. You cannot tell if it is getting closer or farther away.
The sun rises and sets, and rises and sets. You breathe in and out. The Le Labo skin care and compressed watermelon and Peloton bike feel like memories from a different lifetime. Was that a voice you heard in the oxygen machine's whisper?
Time passes. The sun sets. The sun sets. The sun.
Trip planning details:
The International Space Station is about 386km above the surface of Earth. The Kennedy Space Centre in Florida is the closest airport; budget carriers may begin service out of Vandenberg Air Force Base soon. Tickets start at US$58 million.
Basic accommodations on the station begin at US$35,000, which includes private sleeping quarters, water, internet, use of the toilets and, critically, oxygen. But for an additional US$15,000, you can upgrade to the deluxe package, which includes a morning breakfast (freeze-dried eggs Benedict one day, acai bowls with dragonfruit and coconut chips for another), a US$1000 spa credit and premium oxygen. Other add-ons include an unlimited drink package (US$5000) with cocktails crafted by the station's robot mixologist. Just watch out for those hangovers! They're more intense in space.