Public figures like William Shatner and Jeff Bezos have made headlines for their brief trips into space, but for most of us, the idea of visiting the cosmos remains a distant dream. Now, a visionary entrepreneurial team is striving to do the next best thing: bring the moon to Earth.
The Moon World Resorts team plans to democratise interstellar travel with a series of four to-scale moon-shaped – and themed – hotels, which will allow guests to experience a luxury holiday paired with an authentic recreation of a stroll on the lunar surface.
Finding inspiration in the skies
Michael R. Henderson, co-founder of the Moon World Resorts project, said the inspiration for the resort project came in 2000, when he and co-founder Sandra Matthews were trying to dream up a unique spin on the classic destination resort.
‘We had travelled a lot, and we realised that while destination resorts are nice, for the most part they’re very similar’, Henderson said. ‘If you were blindfolded and the blindfold was taken off in the middle of a destination resort, it would be hard for you to name exactly which one it is, because they’re all so similar. We set out to try to create a unique destination resort that was truly unique and truly different.’
Matthews and Henderson went back and forth about how to make their resort stand out, but couldn’t decide on a creative direction – until the late-night brainstorming session that changed it all. ‘This all came about following a few Guinness and opening some blinds to a window’, Henderson said. ‘And there it was – a full moon. It was looking right at us. It was so obvious that this was it.’
Henderson said that the two felt like the moon was the perfect fit for their creative vision. ‘The moon has so many aspects to it’, he said. ‘Everybody loves it. Everybody loves to look at it. Even in all its phases, it’s romantic. It’s love. It’s sharing. Nobody owns it, so we all own it. Once we figured it out, we felt like the theme of our project Moon was so obvious. It’s the biggest brand in the world. Seven and a half billion people know the brand before we even put shovels in the ground.’
Bringing the moon to Earth
As the Moon World Resorts team delved further into their design process, they had to figure out how to balance their desire to design a realistic scale representation of the moon with the importance of building a luxurious, indulgent space where resort customers could unwind.
According to Henderson, their design concept began with an important shape: the sphere.
‘If you think about an orange, and you cut it in half horizontally, that surface will be the lunar surface, which will be approximately 10 acres in size’, Henderson said. ‘Below that surface will be held up by the hotel superstructure building underneath. The top half of the orange will be empty. That’s the dome that sits on top to make the sphere whole. When you walk out onto that lunar surface, you’ll be looking up at the galaxy. You’ll be looking back at Earth. It’ll be the largest sphere in the world by a very substantial margin.’
Within this enormous sphere will be a more conventional structure where guests will stay before and after their lunar-walk experience. ‘Fundamentally, the building will be concrete, glass, steel and aluminium, but you can create the exterior of the sphere in part with carbon fibre composite’, Henderson said. ‘You can impregnate that with the actual lunar surface, which we have extreme detail of. You can have solar panel systems built within that so that you’re also creating a massive solar energy collector.’
One of the key aspects of creating the sphere was making sure that guests doing their lunar walk would have a totally immersive experience, which means that Moon World Resorts’ team of structural engineers had to come up with a design strategy that would allow them to hold the sphere steady without visible supports.
‘When you’re walking on the lunar surface, you will not see any support membranes’, Henderson said. ‘You will not see any support columns because if you do, we’ve lost you. The key word for us from day one has been authenticity. And the amazing thing about structural engineers is they relish something different. Everybody wants them to build a square box that doesn’t fall down. Present them with something that’s very complex, and they all of a sudden get very creative!’
An unforgettable experience
Once construction is completed, Henderson said he hopes the Moon Hotel will offer guests a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
‘Back in 1969, when Buzz and Neil were walking on the lunar surface, everybody was watching, all around the world if they had a television’, Henderson said. ‘It was a crackly screen. It was black and white. But everybody was getting excited about it. Everybody felt part of it. They felt that they were in the game, so to speak, but the new generation are much more sophisticated.’
To recreate those feelings of emotional connection, Henderson said he wanted to create a real-world experience visitors to the Moon Hotel would never forget. ‘Everybody really wants to participate today’, he said. ‘They don’t want to hear about someone else enjoying space tourism if they can’t. They’re not simply satisfied to watch a television screen and watch people go in Virgin Galactic and come back or Blue Origin and come back, because they’re not participating.’
With the Moon project, he hopes these experiences will be democratised. ‘Part of the excitement with the moon is that we can let people participate in space tourism affordably’, Henderson said. ‘They can walk on the lunar surface for 500 US dollars (AU$700) for 90 minutes. Everybody can put that on their credit card once in their lifetime and so, wow, you can actually be part of it! Whereas if you’re going to Virgin Galactic, for example, it’s US$250,000, US$300,000, US$400,000 (AU$360,000, AU$430,000, AU$575,000). That’s a lot to put on your credit card.’
Henderson said he hopes the experience of visiting the moon will create memories that guests cherish for a lifetime. ‘For some people this is going to be very emotional’, he said. ‘They’re going to drop down, and they’re going to be in tears. We want people to have an amazing, emotional personal experience that they feel they can return to, and share with their friends. That for us is the goal.’