From Market Research we know that most people would like to stay in orbit for a few days or more. And this stands to reason, if you're paying $20,000 for your trip to orbit! So in order for space tourism to reach its full potential there's going to be a need for orbital accommodation - or space hotels. These will grow through phases, starting with 'lodges' for up to about 100 guests, growing to true hotels of several hundred guests, and eventually to orbiting "theme parks" for many thousands of guests.
Getting There is Half the Fun
But what would a space hotel actually be like to visit? Hotels in orbit will offer the services you expect from a hotel - private rooms, meals, bars. But they'll also offer two unique experiences: stupendous views - of Earth and space - and the endless entertainment of living in zero-G - including sports and other activities that make use of this. And there are further possibilities such as space-walking.
So a trip to a hotel will start with launch to orbit, which takes about 5 minutes of powered acceleration, followed by up to a few hours of weightlessness approaching the hotel (depending on the flight schedule). Docking will be rather like an airliner parking at an airport - but you'll leave the cabin floating in zero-G along the access tube, holding on to a cable with your hands!
Types of Space Hotel
The hotels themselves will vary greatly - from being quite spartan in the early days, to huge luxury structures at a later date. It's actually surprising that as late as 1997 very few designs for space hotels have ever been published. (cf Shimizu, Ehricke, WATG) This is mainly because those who might be expected to design them haven't expected launch costs to come down far enough to make them possible.
Luckily it's easy to design basic accommodation in orbit - because it was already done in 1973(!) with the "Skylab" space station. Minimal living facilities require a cylindrical module with air-conditioning, some windows, and a kitchen and bathroom. But zero gravity allows you to build almost any shape and size, in almost any direction. So exploiting the full range of possibilities of zero gravity architecture will keep designers happy for decades! There'll also be rotating (and tethered) structures giving artificial gravity.
Lots of people who've been to space have described in detail what it's like to live in zero gravity. Of course, no-one has yet lived in a rotating space station like the "2001" space station. Such designs will probably be used, but building such a rotating structure will be a significant step beyond just attaching some modules together. It has the advantage of providing accommodation at different levels of artificial gravity, but with some important caveats as discussed by Dr. Theodore Hall.
The key to moving in zero-G is to think of your center of mass - which is just behind your belly-button. Any time you push against someone or bump something, if the line of that push doesn't go through your belly-button, then it tends to set you rotating around your belly button! So to move in a certain direction you have to be sure to push in a line that goes through your belly-button (if you see what that means!)
At first, the key is just to move slowly and simply, so you have time to think what you're doing. But as you get the hang of it you'll find it enjoyable to push off from a wall with just the right rotation rate to land on your feet on the opposite wall. And then faster and faster! There are obviously all sorts of possibilities for dancing, gymnastics and zero G sports!
Luckily you don't need to sleep much living in zero gravity, so you'll have plenty of time for relaxing by hanging out (literally!) in a bar with a panoramic window looking down at the turning Earth below, or sitting in a darkened astronomical viewing room listening to a guide explain the sights you can see through the binoculars available, or discoing in zero G, or...
All Good Things...
Of course all good things have to come to an end, unfortunately! And so after a few days you'll find yourself heading back through the docking point to the returning vehicle - though you'll be much more expert at manoeuvring in zero G than you were when you arrived! You'll be thinking how soon you can save up enough to get back up again - or maybe you should change jobs to get to work in an orbiting hotel!