Xavier Claramunt and Space Capitalism

A space enthusiast named Xavier Claramunt, who is CEO of a company called Galactic Suite, has started a project that will result in the first hotel in space, Times Online reported today.

Claramunt, a former aerospace engineer, has revealed that a billionaire has donated £2.5 billion to the cause making it possible for the project to be completed within 3 years time.  The cost of staying at the space hotel resort for 3 nights, which promises a weightless spa where you can watch 15 sunsets a day, is £2.7 million.

This news, which is certainly surprising, forces us to think about the connection between space exploration and money. There was a time when little boys and girls dreamed of going to space by joining astronaut programmes.

They were lofty goals because in order to be an astronaut, one had to excel in their studies and show a consistency in extracurricular activities like volunteer work and sports. This would allow the applicant to develop strong teamwork skills. Eventually, your good grades would allow you to enter into a Master of Science programme.

What parent wouldn’t be happy to help a child in this pursuit? What person wouldn’t want to know that those few who manage earth’s orbit on behalf of the rest of the world are intelligent, ambitious people?

It would seem that the ambitions regarding space flight have changed. Instead of targeting those who are intelligent, it targets those who are rich. Instead of creating ways to explore and learn, Claramunt is using the space around our planet as a form of entertainment. And someone, somewhere is letting him.

Space Pollution

The most disturbing part of Claramunt’s plan is that it manages to expand the problems of waste management and pollution outside of earth’s atmosphere. Earth’s orbit has already been bombarded with man-made satellites used for vast communication around the earth.

In fact, two Russian satellites were destroyed when they crashed into each other earlier this year. One of them, Kosmos 2251, had been out of service since 1995. The crash has left more than 500 pieces of debris in space, which poses a threat to other satellites in sun-synchronous orbits.

Yet, on a psychological level, the issues of a class system, which Claramunt’s project brings to the surface, is even more troubling. The message here is that intelligence, hard work, good grades, altruism, and self esteem won’t necessarily get you into space, but money will; and lots of it.

Has the very idea of space exploration as a noble and honest attempt to learn more about our planet and the space around it been compromised? If it hasn’t yet, it may very well be by 2012.

Kids who want to go to space may not focus their attentions on education, but instead on getting rich. The London Times equated Claramunt’s plan with something out of Star Trek. But to ‘seek out new life’ doesn’t seem to be what Claramunt is after. He simply means to expand our old life by bringing the same problems we’ve always known into the final frontier.