Hotels in Space

1967 AAS Conference Proceedings

American Astronautical Society, AAS 67-126

HOTELS IN SPACE (Based on Preprint AAS 67-126)

Barron Hilton (President, Hilton Hotels Corporation)

The possibility of an orbiting or lunar hotel is discussed. It is suggested that when space scientists make it physically feasible to establish hotels in space and to transport people, the hotel industry will meet the challenge.

The present thinking in the Hilton organization on the possibility of an orbiting hotel is described, followed by an outline of how a Lunar Hilton might be designed. Suggestions from a feasibility study of a lunar hotel prepared by a group students in Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration are discussed. Whereas the Orbiter Hilton would be free in space, the Lunar Hilton would be located below the moon's surface and include about 100 guest rooms.

A primary rule of the hotel industry is that a hotel, whether on earth, in space, or on the moon, should not be built unless there is a proven need for it. No hotel should ever be built that will cost more than it can earn. When a space hotel becomes a practical reality, it will simultaneously become a practical financial reality.

[1]Scarcely a day goes by when someone doesn't ask me, jovially, when the Lunar Hilton is going to be opened. They're joking, of course. But I don't see it as a joke at all.

My rationale for assuming that people from our planet will someday populate the universe is really quite simple. I refer to it as "proportional achievement".

In the early days of this century if someone had prophesied that within thirty to forty years live pictures would invisibly transmit through the air into our homes, he would have been laughed at by everyone.

Before Kitty Hawk, transporting people miles above the earth in a matter of a few hours was thought impossible. Furthermore, who would have dreamed that we would one day be transplanting an artificial heart into a man's body?

I submit that man already visualizes being able to reach and inhabit other planets. We are already close to such an event - and dreams and practical application constitute half the battle. We consider ourselves sophisticated about outer space - going there, living there - but I'll wager those of us who are still here fifty years from today will be amazed at the reality of things we never even dreamed possible.

I firmly believe that we are going to have Hiltons in outer space, perhaps even soon enough for me to officiate at the formal opening of the first. If the world powers continue to restrict outer space to peaceful pursuits, there will be travelers in outer space - and where there are travelers there must be Hiltons.

Charles R. Able, vice president of Douglas, has said that "outer space should be regarded basically as a medium for travel". In this regard a travel agent in the eastern United States has [2] stated that he will accept ten dollar deposits for the first commercial trip to the moon, such deposits to be placed in escrow. The local Better Business Bureau suggests that this optimist is "reaching for the moon".

The Bureau is right, of course. But at least the travel agent is looking ahead, as I think all segments of the travel industry should be doing, as we in Hilton are doing.

Technically, how to place a Hilton in outer space is beyond my knowledge. I am certain there are many of you here today who have workable theories as to how this can be done.

A basic rule of the hotel industry is that a hotel, whether on earth, in space or on the moon, should not be built unless there is a proven need for it. If you ladies and gentlemen can get space travelers into circulation, we will have Hiltons for them to stay in. Possibly other hotel companies would join with us in a cooperative venture. We really don't feel that we have to beat our competition to the moon, but just between us, we might try.

Where do we begin? With the Orbiter Hilton or the Lunar Hilton? We need your assistance in answering that question. The method of getting a Hilton into orbit, or placed on the moon, though beyond our knowledge - is not beyond our imagination or ambition.

Perhaps we'd better learn to walk before we run, so let's begin with the Orbiter Hilton. My friend Don Douglas, Jr., has been telling me about his company's concept of a space laboratory which would be 14 stories high and could comfortably accommodate up to 24 people. Personnel would arrive in a six-man ferrycraft.

[3]As developed and expanded why couldn't this be the first orbiter Hilton? Perhaps the two organizations - Hilton and Douglas - could get together on a deal. Mr. Douglas could provide the orbiter hotels and we would franchise the Hilton name and know-how to set up a chain of Hilton-Douglas orbiter hotels.

These might be like Hilton Inns for short trips in space. They could accommodate brief stop-overs on a continuing journey to the moon or other planets. I should advise you - and I guess I'd better tell Mr. Douglas too - that an Orbiter Hilton is already in existence. It's known as "Hilton Space Station Number Five" and you'll be seeing it next fall in a motion picture called "2001 - A Space Odyssey". So I guess it behooves Mr. Douglas and me to get busy with our orbiters before somebody beats us to it.

After the Orbiters are established, we can move on to a larger Hilton on the moon.

When your Society courageously invited me to talk about hotels in space, I thought it the better part of valor to consult with other hotel people. It came to mind that the most knowledgeable people for a subject like this would be young college students in hotel schools. When I checked with our friends at Cornell University to discover what the young people were thinking about the matter, I found they were already ahead of me. A group of them had just completed a feasibility study for a Lunar hotel. They permitted me to inspect it. It confirmed a number of ideas I have had. Let me tell you about a few of them.

Entrance to the Lunar Hilton will be on the surface of the moon, but most of the Hilton will be situated beneath the surface - say 20 to 30 feet - to establish constant temperature controls and a more workable hotel area. The experiments of [4] Surveyor Three seem to indicate that excavations on the moon are possible and that the moon soil might be used for construction.

The Hilton will have three levels. At the bottom mechanical equipment will be housed. The center level will consist of two 400-foot guest corridors crossing in the middle core. These corridors will contain 100 guest rooms. The top level will be used for public space. Off the dining room we will place necessary machines and storage areas.

The various sections will be lined with plastic which can expand under air pressure. Each section will be separated from the others by air locks. Thus, should leaks develope in these pressurized cells they can be repaired as an automobile tire is repaired here on earth. The Cornell boys assure us that "leaks that develop in the system will be a nuisance rather than a disaster".

To start with we will have only three floors, which will eliminate elevators and minimize power requirements. The multi-storied underground hotel will come later. But - and this is very important - in almost every respect the Lunar Hilton will be physically like an earth Hilton.

We know that most guests are uneasy unless their accommodations are a reflection of their style of living. We will have none of those science-fiction "cells". The rooms will be large, with carpets and drapes and plants; the artificial lighting will reflect the sunlight. There will be wall-to-wall television for programs from earth and for views of outer space.

Guests in the Lunar Hilton, or in an Orbiter Hilton for that matter, will not dine on vitamin or nutrient capsules. Perhaps they'll have to wait until they return to earth for some extra [5] fancy items. But for the most part they will eat just as they eat at home.

There will be shipping and storage problems. But great strides are being made in dehydrated, freeze-dry foods. Today, for example, a four-ounce hamburger can be reduced to 1/5 ounce; a steak to the size of a silver dollar. When reconstituted, these foods will be as tasty and nourishing as any served on earth.

Cooking will be done in a nuclear-reactor kitchen, mostly by machines. To fill an order the chef will push several buttons. The machines will automatically remove the contents from packages, rehydrate and heat if necessary. Only a small working and storage space will be necessary - a major consideration so many thousands of miles from warehouses. Our first Lunar Hilton can store a three-month supply.

If you think we're not going to have a cocktail lounge you don't know Hilton - or travelers. Enter the Galaxy Lounge. Enjoy a martini and see the starts. Although you will be below the lunar surface, thermopane windows will provide views of outer space - and the earth.

The bartenders will have an easy job. They will push a button and out will come a pre-measured, pre-cooled mixture of pure ethyl alcohol and distilled water. About 80 proof. If the machine goofs, of course, we will have some highly stimulated guests. Into the mixture the bartender drops a tablet - martini, manhattan, scotch, gin - you name it. Instant drink! Glassware and equipment will be cleaned by means of a small Laser unit.

Although the Lunar Hilton must be highly automated, we will have a staff because we are going to operate with the usual [6] standards of Hilton service. To enable our employees to continue to reside near their families on earth, we'll create a traveling staff, much as stewardesses travel on today's airlines.

Your space-craft staff will be your Lunar Hilton staff, arriving with guests and returning to earth with them. Since there will be little or no dirt, and we will use disposable sheets and towels, these traveling employees should be able to perform these few household chores.

The staffing of other departments such as accounting, front office, etc., will also be at a minimum. We will have a Lunar American Plan for guests - a set rate determined on earth before departure and paid either in advance or upon the return. The small, miscellaneous expenditures for tips (we haven't figured a way to eliminate these) or cocktails will be charged with the guest's Carte Blanche credit card. We will need an engineer and a doctor, but they will be part of the traveling staff, also.

Water, oxygen, weightlessness - such problems are being studied. If they cannot be solved, we cannot have a space Hilton.

And last, of course, there is financing. I do know a little about financing. I do know that you should never build a hotel that will cost more than it can earn. But I am confident that when a space hotel becomes a practical reality it will also become a practical financial reality for Hilton.

At such time expect an announcement from Hilton regarding its first hotel in space. I mean this sincerely. My ambition is to be among the pioneers in such a venture. But if fate won't cooperate with me, you can bet your last dollar that one of my sons will be a part of the Hilton hotel system in outer space.

This page is part of Jim Kingdon's space markets page.