All monies were eventually refunded after it became clear that the project was rather ahead of its time It was due to start in 1993. The Tokyo-based Shimizu Corporation, however, remains optimistic. It has set a target date of 2020 for an orbiting space resort and claims there are a potential 1m people willing to pay $10,000 each to get there.In the meantime, while the universe is still out of reach, how does the jaded earthbound holidaymaker find something different?The answer boils down to individual taste and budget. But if you have some money going begging – maybe from an unexpected legacy or win on the lottery – here are a few ideas for a “no-expenses spared” holiday on land, sea, wheels and, potentially at least, in space.SPACED OUTNot a lot of people know this.. but Chekov did not appear the first series of Star Trek. The character, it seems, was introduced after Russian officials complained that a spaceship of the future with an international – indeed, intergalactic- staff would contain a Russian crew member. It was a controversial idea in the Sixties, yet today it’s the Russians who are taking the lead in space tourism.
NASA receives hundreds of letters a year from people wanting to go into orbit, but it’s the former Soviet Intourist agency that is currently offering the ultimate in activity holidays: a week’s cosmonaut training in Moscow’s Star City. Budding Neil Armstrongs or Yuri Gagarins can undertake lectures in basic space medicine, navigation and psychological preparation with practical lessons on the training equipment of both Mir, the Russian orbital space station, and the transport ship Soyuz-TM.The programme takes place at Star City’s Cosmonaut Training Centre, where Helen Sharman trained for 18 months before becoming the first British astronaut in space. “A week could give you a small taste of the activities involved in training,” she says, “and depending on your medical fitness you could do the centrifuge or weightlessness experiments.”The rotating centrifuge, where subjects are whizzed around in circles like a stone on a piece of string, simulates bringing out the transport ship into orbit. The weightlessness training, in a IL-76-MDK freighter plane, definitely sounds more fun. “The plane flies a series of loops like a humpbacked bridge,” Sharman explains. “At the top of the loop, when the plane is straightened out, you feel weightless, as if in free fall, for 23 seconds.” This, incidentally, was the technique used by the film Apollo 13 to obtain its zero gravity sequences.Sharman admits that most of her training was more earthbound.
In this respect, the course is authentic, containing lessons on life-support systems and, if you’re a glutton for punishment, the hydro-laboratory on “autonomous transference in the open cosmic vacuum”.Programmes can be tailor-made for individuals and cost approximately pounds 20,000 for a group of seven would-be space travellers. “So far no one has actually been on the course,” admits Sarah Owen of Intourist, “but we have had three or four seriously interested parties. It was just the expense that put them off in the end.”Intourist Travel Limited, 219 Marsh Wall, London E14 9PD (0171-538 8600)SAFARI BY STEAMAdmittedly, the world is not starved of luxurious train journeys, but only one combines views of springbok, elephants, giraffes and the occasional rhino with an overnight stop at Victoria Falls. Rovos Rail’s steam safari, a relatively new arrival on the travel scene, boasts that it is The Pride of Africa.