July 6, 2009 Plans for a new international space hotel have been unveiled by students this month as part of a project for their Masters degree in Innovation Design Engineering (IDE).
Students from the course have developed plans for a hotel that could be built in space and fitted to the International Space Station, which is currently orbiting the Earth. The Masters in IDE is run jointly by Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art.
On June 26, the students unveiled a 12 metre-long replica of the hotel interior, together with animated computer designs that showed what the inside of the space hotel would look and feel like for tourists.
For the project, students had to grapple with the challenges of designing that could function in a zero gravity environment. They worked with visiting lecturer and space architecture expert Daniele Bedini, who has worked for the National Aeronautical Space Agency (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) on projects for a Moon base and new missions to Mars.
“Designing a building that is floating hundreds of miles above Earth throws up all kinds of engineering challenges,” said Bedini. “From personal hygiene to sleeping in zero gravity, we encouraged the students to be completely creative with their solutions so that the living conditions in the world’s most isolated hotel could be as comfortable as possible.”
The students designed smaller toilets that would save space and that would also have the suction power of a vacuum, to counteract zero gravity and help human muscles to remove waste more effectively. In addition, they devised a shower nozzle that could spit out water when it was pressed on the skin and then suck the water back up again after it had been used for washing. This would stop the water from being left floating as globules in zero gravity.
The students were tasked with creating new fashions that space tourists could wear. IDE student Katrin Baumgarten was part of a team that had to develop new fashion concepts that were comfortable, stylish and practical. She said:
“There are no washing machines or tumble dryers in space so we had to design clothes that enabled the skin to breathe, which reduces sweating, smells and the need for clothes to be washed. We achieved this by using natural fibres that breathe and we also made small chest flaps, which let the air in to keep the body cool and comfortable.”
The students were also challenged with finding new bedding for people sleeping in zero gravity, which could restrain the body without making the sleeper feel claustrophobic. The students designed single and double sleeping bags that were large warm cocoons, with soft elastic covers that could restrain the sleepers, so that people could be comfortable without feeling like they were hemmed in.
The students created a novel solution for tourists wanting to record their trip, designing a 'floating camera' that would be able to move independently in space, to automatically follow the space tourist and document their life on board. The students believe this would be an important aspect of the experience for tourists who would wish to capture their trip for posterity and show it to friends and family on Earth.
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