Okay, China. You win. A space-themed hotel is pretty badass, but staffing it with robots? Total genius.
Given that most of us can’t shell out $250,000 to buy a ticket to low-Earth orbit on a Virgin Galactic spacecraft, we can at least pretend to be in space for only $11 a night if we can get ourselves to Shenzhen, China.
The Pengheng Space Capsules Hotel opened a few months ago, and while it provides many of the same amenities you’ll find at any hotel—lounge area, wi-fi, laundry—it does so in the most high-tech ways possible. In the lounge, guests can order food via tablets, and even the locker room and washing facilities look like ones you might find on a (nice) space station). Instead of rooms, there are sleeping pods, or capsules. You know, for that space-like claustrophobia that’s so relaxing when you’re trying to catch your Zzzs.
It only makes sense that robots are in charge of this place. The doorman, the front desk employees who check in guests and accommodate their needs, the waiters and barkeeps—all robots. Apparently there is a small staff of humans to make sure nothing goes wrong, but it would be possible to stay at this hotel and not run into another human, enhancing a space-like effect.
Capsule hotels are popular in Japan, where extremely small rooms are the norm. The first one opened in Osaka back in 1979, and the industry has expanded to include micro apartments, which are being found in more and more cities across the world. Putting the space spin on them would be one way of mitigating the fact that they’re just really damn tiny rooms, so props to the Pengheng for coming up with a brilliant marketing strategy.
One aspect of space travel that seems least appealing is the confined spaces. Even though the ISS videos are awesome, it’s pretty hard not to notice how little space Chris Hadfield and Karen Nyberg have to maneuver. I think about how Mars colonists would have to spend 7-8 months on a tiny spacecraft, and then, at least per Mars One’s plans, they’d move into small dome-shaped pods. An experience like that could be fun if you were looking for a novel way to pass some time on planet Earth, where you can get out. Or maybe these capsule accommodations are just preparing us for a time in which we’ll have much less room.
Either way, most of us would happily spend $11 a night at the Pengheng Space Capsules Hotel. After a few robot-mixed drinks, you could pretend you were in Battlestar Galactica or Babylon 5. The only thing missing are the aliens.