Galactic Suite, Space hotel sees 2012 opening

* Story Highlights
* Three-bedroom, $3 billion “Galactic Suite” set to open in 2012
* Boutique hotel will cost $4 million for a three-day stay
* Guests would orbit the Earth in 80 minutes and see 15 sunrises a day

BARCELONA (Reuters) — “Galactic Suite”, the first hotel planned in space, expects to open for business in 2012 and would allow guests to travel around the world in 80 minutes.

An artist’s impression of the Galactic Suite, where guests would enjoy views of the Earth during their three-day stay

Its Barcelona-based architects say the space hotel will be the most expensive in the galaxy, costing $4 million for a three-day stay.

During that time guests would see the sun rise 15 times a day and use Velcro suits to crawl around their pod rooms by sticking themselves to the walls like Spiderman.

Company director Xavier Claramunt says the three-bedroom boutique hotel’s joined-up pod structure, which makes it look like a model of molecules, was dictated by the fact that each pod room had to fit inside a rocket to be taken into space.

“It’s the bathrooms in zero gravity that are the biggest challenge,” says Claramunt. “How to accommodate the more intimate activities of the guests is not easy.”

But they may have solved the issue of how to take a shower in weightlessness — the guests will enter a spa room in which bubbles of water will float around.

When guests are not admiring the view from their portholes they will take part in scientific experiments on space travel.

Galactic Suite began as a hobby for former aerospace engineer Claramunt, until a space enthusiast decided to make the science fiction fantasy a reality by fronting most of the $3 billion needed to build the hotel.

An American company intent on colonizing Mars, which sees Galaxy Suite as a first step, has since come on board, and private investors from Japan, the United States and the United Arab Emirates are in talks.

Plenty rich enough

If Claramunt is secretive about the identity of his generous backer, he is more forthcoming about the customors he can expect.

“We have calculated that there are 40,000 people in the world who could afford to stay at the hotel. Whether they will want to spend money on going into space, we just don’t know.”

Four million dollars might be a lot to spend on a holiday, but those in the nascent space tourism industry say hoteliers have been slow on the uptake because no one thought the cost of space travel would come down as quickly as it has.

Galactic Suite said the price included not only three nights in space. Guests also get eight weeks of intensive training at a James Bond-style space camp on a tropical island.

“There is fear associated with going into space,” said Claramunt. “That’s why the shuttle rocket will remain fixed to the space hotel for the duration of the guests’ stay, so they know they can get home again.”

In an era of concern over climate change, Galaxy Suite has no plans so far to offset the pollution implications of sending a rocket to carry just six guests at a time into space.

“But,” says Claramunt, “I’m hopeful that the impact of seeing the earth from a distance will stimulate the guests’ urge to value and protect our planet.”

Xavier Claramunt says the three-bedroom boutique hotel’s joined-up pod structure will look oddly molecular; each pod room had to fit inside a rocket to be taken into space. (Maybe they should go inflatable – see the CSS Skywalker – inflatable orbital resort.)

Sci-Fi fans recall the spacious lounge in the orbiting space station in 2001: A Space Odyssey; note the low curving ceiling (this space station was spun on its axis to provide artificial gravity for the guests).

Lounge From Space Station in film, 2001 A Space Odyssey

by Patrick Barry

Aug 11, 2007,, If your blood glucose is out of whack, the problem may be in your bones. New research in mice shows that bone cells exert a surprising influence on how the body regulates sugar, energy, and fat.

THE ARM BONE’S CONNECTED. A bone-cell protein called osteocalcin influences energy metabolism through its effects on pancreatic and fat cells.
N. Heim/Columbia Univ. Med. Center

The discovery could lead to new ways to treat type 2 diabetes, a disease involving poor regulation of blood glucose. It also means that skeletons act as endocrine organs, which affect other body tissues by releasing hormones into the bloodstream.

“I’m already changing my teaching slides” about the functions of bones, comments Jennifer Westendorf, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “Now we can add that [the skeleton] affects energy metabolism as well,” she says. “It’s certainly an exciting breakthrough.”

The team announcing the finding, led by Gerard Karsenty of Columbia University, had previously found that fat cells secrete a hormone that influences bone-forming cells called osteoblasts. Because hormone regulation between two cell types is often reciprocal, Karsenty and his team reasoned that osteoblasts might also be emitting hormones that control fat tissue. Osteoblasts make bone throughout a healthy person’s lifetime, while cells called osteoclasts tear down bone—processes that constantly remodel the skeleton.

Osteocalcin, a somewhat enigmatic protein produced only by osteoblasts, seemed like a good hormone candidate, Karsenty says. “[It] has been the flagship molecule of the [bone-research] field for 30 years, but nobody knew what it was doing.”

Karsenty’s team fed a normal diet to mice engineered to lack the gene for osteocalcin. The mice became obese and had low blood concentrations of insulin, a key hormone for controlling blood glucose. The animals also had poor sensitivity to insulin, a hallmark of people with diabetes.

Another group of mice, which had been engineered to have extra osteocalcin, stayed thin despite being fed a high-calorie diet. These animals also maintained higher insulin concentrations and better sensitivity to insulin than the mice lacking osteocalcin did, the team reports in the Aug. 10 Cell.

Further tests on mice showed that osteocalcin causes the insulin-making cells in the pancreas to proliferate and ramp up insulin production. The bone protein also causes fat cells to store less fat and to secrete a hormone called adiponectin. In people as well as in mice, this substance improves cells’ sensitivity to insulin.

Previous research has shown that many people with type 2 diabetes have low blood concentrations of osteocalcin.

“Osteocalcin, if everything goes well, could be a treatment for type 2 diabetes. That’s where the excitement is,” Karsenty says. Columbia University holds a patent on the idea, and Karsenty says that he’s helping form a company to commercialize the treatment.

“This could also have important ramifications for cardiovascular disease because of the effect on metabolic syndrome,” a condition related to diabetes, comments Dana T. Graves of Boston University. “The fact that bone cells regulate energy metabolism, and that they do it through osteocalcin, is a major finding,” he says.