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Bigelow Sundancer

The Bigelow Sundancer space hotel is right now something dreams are made of, but in the future that dream will become a reality. Billionaire Robert Bigelow, founder of the Budget Suites hotel chain, is attempting a significant breakthrough in the private space tourism.

If all goes according to plan, Bigelow Aeronautics will be offering a revolutionary stay in the Sundancer space hotel revolving around the Earth.

The vacation escape will cost around $8 million a week per person, which is a far cry from the $20 million being charged by another space tourism company per week in the International Space Station.

The $75 million Sundancer space hotel, offered by Bigelow, will be truly one of a kind offering 180 cubic meters of habitation, attitude control, orbit maneuverability and three windows to support a crew of three. Bigelow began his foray in aerospace when he apportioned $500 million for his company Bigelow Aerospace.

Not only did he make enough money to go off on this "adventure", he launched his first prototype hotel into space last summer, the Genesis I, and he is preparing to launch Genesis II, loaded with living organisms, this summer. Genesis 2 will also have cameras and computers to track the acclimation of different organisms to the space environment.

Space has always been regarded as a risky place for travelers. Meteor showers, weightlessness, intense sun rays, and radiation are only a few of the concerns that many in the space industry have to deal with. Bigelow Aeronautics has found ways to combat such fears. In December 2006, Genesis 1 survived a severe solar event, which had knocked out communications for a couple of hours, but the ship came back in tact and offered much data on such a recovery.

The Bigelow Sundancer space hotel will be at the forefront in technological advances with its water-filled cushions in the walls to deflect radiation, Vectran (Kevlar-like) walls to protect from space debris, and of course, life-support tanks filled with oxygen. Bigelow has spent a vast amount of money, time, and effort to make his goal of becoming a forerunner in the space tourism field feasible.

The Bigelow Sundancer will be the first private "human-rated" space hotel, which is set to launch in 2009 or 2010. With a large life-support tank inside, the Sundancer will inflate to a whopping 6,400 cubic feet total, in which approximately six humans can live comfortably including the crew.

Because the Sundancer is so large it is doubtful that the same Russian Dnepr rocket that carried the current Genesis I into orbit can also carry the Sundancer. This is why Bigelow has partnered with Lockheed Martin to use its Atlas V rocket to propel the Sundancer into orbit.

The Bigelow Sundancer is not the only space hotel on the books, however, for this company. Bigelow Aeronautics is also working on its Nautilus module, which is reported to be 10-times the size of Genesis I.

While Robert Bigelow's pioneering of the space tourist field is extremely expensive right now, it represents a future where one day space tourism will be affordable by many. While the Sundancer may be the playground of the rich at the offset, with time, engineering breakthroughs and competition, it may just one day become a glorified ride on Space Mountain.

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