The scene: Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic’s headquarters in the windswept desert of New Mexico. The time: a few minutes past noon on a fall day in 2010. A gathering of some 500 people—including Buzz Aldrin (the second man to walk on the moon) and a couple dozen future Virgin Galactic customers—sat listening to the company’s billionaire founder, Sir Richard Branson, speak of the new space frontier, when a vision appeared in the sky. At first it was a mere glint, a metallic speck reflecting sunlight thousands of feet up. Then, as it descended like some great ivory bird, it revealed itself: Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo spaceship, three fuselages joined by a long, arced wing that seemed to go on and on, much like the smile on Branson’s face.
“This is history,” he said. “We’re making it right here, right now.”
When the ship landed, the first civilian spaceport was christened.
At the beginning of the first space race, in the early 1960s, Hugh Hefner started opening Playboy Clubs and publishing the magazine’s iconic “pad” features. So at the dawn of the new space race, as corporations rather than governments vie to be the first to launch pleasure-seeking civilians into the heavens, we created the first renderings of a new celestial mecca. With the help of futurists and rocket scientists—including Virgin Galactic’s head designer, Adam Wells—we imagine a Playboy Club in space. Here’s your exclusive ticket to a party that’s out of this world.
The Playboy Club in space will be on a station in orbit, like a cruise ship. Orbiting Earth is one idea, but it could also travel around other celestial bodies. “You could literally swing around the dark side of the moon,” says Virgin Galactic’s Wells. The ship will consist of a stationary and thus zero-gravity superstructure, along with an outer ring that spins centrifugally, creating artificial gravity. Humans will get to the club by rocket, but cargo will likely arrive by machine gun. Says Thomas Frey, director of the DaVinci Institute, a futurist think tank, “We might create guns big enough to shoot things into space.” (See the cargo bullets behind the Rabbit’s ear above.) “Humans couldn’t withstand those g-forces, but it would be ideal for supplies.” Naturally, windows will abound to provide views of the heavens.
We imagine the restaurant has gravity, to prevent chaos. “A big turnoff for most people in space is cold interiors,” says Frey. “They don’t find the Star Wars look inviting.” These interiors are warm and elegant. According to Frey, organic printers will produce food: “Attached to the printers are vats of organic material,” he says. Stan Kent, a rocket scientist formerly with NASA and now with Boeing’s satellite division, says, “Hanging off the restaurant are zero-gravity transparent bubbles [top left]. That’s our space farm.” One bubble holds plants, all growing toward the center, with light fed by the sun and mirrors. Inside the other are fish. No need for gravity underwater.
The dance club is the one room on board with no windows. It is a totally encompassing zero-gravity psychedelic experience. Frey envisions trampolines on the walls “so you can ricochet around, bouncing into one another like in a three-dimensional mosh pit.” Wells imagines “gossamer webbing, like spiderwebs,” hanging from the walls so people can take a break and watch the action. Bunnies with jet packs will serve globules of floating liquids as drinks, according to Kent. The DJ will rock from center stage, and the lighting will be stellar.
Speaking of celestial bodies, personal quarters will serve as the first zero-gravity sex suites. Kent uses the term POD, or “pleasure orbital dome.” The entire Kama Sutra will have to be reimagined according to the rules of zero-gravity physics. Huge windows will offer views of Earth. Frey suggests digital wallpaper that changes according to your mood. But coitus in space will take some practice. Kent points out that “for every action there will be quite an opposite reaction. If you thrust into someone and aren’t holding on, they’re going to fly across the room.”
Last, we reach the gaming room. Of course it will have 3-D video games. But what about a mutant roulette wheel on which the player himself is the ball that bounces around the numbers (see rendering below)? How about a launching pad for bungee jumping through space at thousands of miles an hour (ditto)? And then there’s the bar. Says Frey, “Instead of ordering drinks, you put your hands on the bar and a field takes over your body and changes your perspective. It could hyperdose your brain so you become superintelligent. Rather than the dumbing-down process with alcohol, you’d go the other way—you’re a sudden Einstein.”