Want to train as an astronaut, but don’t work for NASA or have SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on speed dial? Then you might want to start saving for a flight to the UK, where the first’s first private astronaut training center is set to open in a couple years time. Called Blue Abyss, it’s a $130 million facility built on an air force base — and boasting exactly the kind of high-end performance equipment necessary to, you know, teach your body to cope with the cold, dark expanses of space.
Plans for the new facility were announced at an event attended by representatives of the European Space Agency (ESA), Romanian cosmonaut Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu (who doubles as Blue Abyss’ non-executive director), and various government officials.
So far, only illustrations of the site have been released, but it will reportedly include a “human performance center” boasting equipment like a centrifugal base, a hotel, and a 50-meter-deep dive pool — which makes it four times the depth of the pool NASA uses at its Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, TX. It is being designed by the same architect responsible for London’s iconic Gherkin tower — which kind of looks like a futuristic rocket ship itself, now that we think about it!
The center’s use-cases won’t only concern space travel, though. It will also be useful for anyone hoping to train in extreme environmental conditions, which could include deep sea divers or world-class athletes.
“It is aimed at various sectors, from the oil and gas industry, through offshore energy to underwater robotics companies, human physiology in extreme environments, and human spaceflight,” John Vickers, Blue Abyss’ managing director, told Digital Trends. “Increasingly, private companies — especially with regards to space — are demonstrating that they can offer better options to enable governments to continue funding what is appropriate for them, whilst also enabling a wider audience to see how they too can become involved in this area.”
According to Vickers, the goal is to “open in mid-2019, give or take a few months.” Details concerning a wide range of experiential “space preparation” packages for groups and individuals will be made public in the coming weeks and months.
Hey, it’s more interesting than telling your friends you’ve signed up for a ten-week pilates course, right?
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