With summer approaching, one's thoughts drift towards the holidays. The biggest dilemma the rich face today is whether to slum it in a villa in St Tropez or push the boat out and rent a private island in Mustique. However, in two years' time, there may be even more choice "in one giant leap for luxury travel, a US entrepreneur has launched plans to build the first hotel in space and reservations are already open", says Tom Mulvihill in The Daily Telegraph. Would-be astronauts can now "get onto the waiting list for the Aurora Station, a modular space station currently being developed by Houston-based company Orion Span". It hopes "to welcome its first guests in 2022".
Can you imagine the Instagram content you'd get up there? asks Alice Howarth in the Evening Standard. If everything goes to plan, "guests will be able to gaze at the northern and southern aurora, fly over their hometowns, grow their own food while in orbit (which they can take home with them as the ultimate souvenir), revel in a virtual reality experience on the holodeck, and stay in touch or live stream with their loved ones back home via wireless internet access". Since the station will circle the earth every 90 minutes, "those aboard will see an average of 16 sunrises and sunsets every 24 hours".
Of course, while the experience will be figuratively as well as literally "out of this world", the cost, especially for the first wave of space tourists, will be astronomical. Those looking "to live out their full astronaut fantasies for 12 days" will have to pay $9.5m a ticket. Just booking a seat requires an $80,000 deposit. Luckily, it's "fully refundable" even if Orion Span ends up going bust.
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The new space race
Good thing too, says a sceptical Justin Bachman on Bloomberg. "Orion Span has yet to contract with a launch provider, either for its initial flights to build the station or for customer flights". The "aggressive" four-year time frame "may be a ploy to assess what kind of market might be out there for this". In any case, it won't be something that you can book on a whim, since travellers "would have three months of training, beginning with online courses to understand basic spaceflight, orbital mechanics, and pressurised environments in space". Hotel guests would also have to take "required exercises on spacecraft systems and contingency training at the company's Houston facility".
Even if Orion Span's project ends up falling through, holidays in space look inevitable, since "Aurora Station isn't the only space hotel in the works", says Matthew Meltzer in Canada's Globe and Mail. Much as it "raced the United States to space in the 1960s", Russia is "racing America to space tourism". Last year the Russian Space Agency "announced plans for a luxury orbital suite at the International Space Station, that guests could rent out for a mere US$40m a week". If you've got the cash, perhaps you should get booking before space "becomes a giant, weightless Florida".
Tabloid moneythe most expensive piece of paper in history
Bookies reported heavy backing for horses with royal names ahead of the Grand National held at Aintree last Saturday, says Brian Reade in the Daily Mirror. The Duchess of Cambridge's pregnancy and Prince Harry's upcoming wedding with former actress Meghan Markle saw the odds tumble on Regal Encore, Splash of Ginge, and Bonny Kate. "I don't want to appear a party pooper, so I [toyed with the idea of putting] a few quid on Delusion Of Grandeur, as that's what the baby will be born with, and Road To Riches, as that's what Meghan Markle will soon be on, courtesy of the taxpayer."
If you thought the Italians were free spirits, think again, says Jennifer Selway in the Daily Express. After football club Roma beat Barcelona in the Champions League, Roma's American chairman, James Pallotta, leapt in the fountain in Rome's Piazza del Popolo. A finger-wagging consumer group declared, "There is a €500 fine for anyone jumping into historic fountains in Rome the same treatment should be meted out to [Pallotta]". Pallotta offered to pay the fine and pledged €230,000 for restoration work near Rome's Pantheon. "I don't recall Anita Ekberg getting this kind of grief when she trailed through the Trevi Fountain in La Dolce Vita."
"When I was asked by the Beeb what I would put in the planned Museum of Brexit (officially pitched as a museum of sovereignty'), I said that £9m leaflet, sent out to the country saying the government would do whatever the result dictated in a yes/no referendum, however slim/wide the margin of victory," says Rachel Johnson in The Mail on Sunday. "The most expensive piece of paper in British national history', I remoaned on Radio 4. Though I now wish I'd just said, The Museum of Brexit you mean the UK?'."
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