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Go Into Orbit on Your Computer

Posted November 9, 2000

— The International Space Station's first residents have been in their new home just over a week. You do not necessarily have to be an astronaut to get on board.

The three members of the Expedition One crew will spend four months on the space station floating inside laboratories and crew quarters 247 miles above Earth.

TheNASA Web siteallows visitors to get a good picture of various parts of the station. Using a free viewer, a visitor can use their mouse to move around in the compartments. Vacations in Space?Plans are afoot to build a resort in space using discarded external fuel tanks from shuttle missions. A plan bySpace Island Groupwould arrange the big tanks in a huge wheel, spinning slowly to create one-half Earth gravity.

"The big challenge is going to be making the interiors as comfortable and appealing as possible to the travelers themselves," says Gene Myers with Space Island Group. "Nobody would want to stay in what is, in effect, government housing."

Designers have some interesting ideas. Soft lighting would wash interior walls. Furniture is modern and bolted down. Big television screens would take the place of windows.

Visitors would travel to Space Island on the shuttle and move to the slowly spinning island through an airlock. There will be no golf or swimming at this resort -- just looking around and staring into space.

Myers says the first trips make take place in about 10 years for people with heavy wallets. Within five years, prices may come down to about $20,000 for a couple to go there for a week.

Space Island says each "island" would feature a five-star resort, a casino, restaurants, a nightclub and botanical gardens.

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