By Ned Hickson
For sale: One-bedroom module. Quiet setting on outskirts of gravity belt. Comes with docking port. Pressurized for maximum comfort. Solar-powered utilities. Includes hot plate. Only two days from Earth. $95 billion obo.
Now that mankind has established a studio apartment in outer space and will soon be offering spaceflight to the general public, it's only a matter of time before the Re/Max hot air balloon is replaced by a space shuttle. As exciting as that is, we should temper our enthusiasm with a level of caution. Just like buying a fixer-upper in the Ozarks through someone on the Internet, purchasing a residence 230 miles above the earth can be risky.
During a real estate symposium held last month in Washington D.C., agents stressed that there are a lot of things to consider when looking for a little spot in our solar system to call your own. Ralph Nader further emphasized that notion in his newly-released consumer handbook, "Don't Get Hosed By Your Space House." After sifting through information from both sources, I believe I've managed to boil things down to the basics.
1) Stay away from black holes. Believe it or not, most insurance companies won't cover your home if it's swallowed by one of these babies. What makes potential homebuyers particularly susceptible is that, though often the size of Jupiter, black holes are hard to see.
Signs that you're looking at a home near a black hole include a) Shifts in the space-time continuum and b) A constant rumbling sound equal to the explosion of 100 suns. A simple test is to turn on a lamp. If the light bends and disappears into space, consider seeing what else your agent has to offer.
2) Avoid fixer-uppers.
As tempting as the price may be, before buying a space home that requires some do-it-yourself work, conduct the following experiment: Put on SCUBA gear and build a dog house at the bottom of an Olympic-sized pool. The conditions you'll experience will be similar to those you'll face in space. Just remember to factor in the possibility of floating off into the cosmos for eternity, an occasional meteor shower, and temperatures of -200 degrees, and you'll have a good idea of what you can expect to encounter while building that new addition.
3) Check for the basics.
Don't just assume that your home comes with a urine-filtration system for making drinking water. (Hint: Tell your agent that you're thirsty. If he or she offers you an Evian, ask to look at a different home.) And, finally,
4) Stay within the gravity belt.
Though drifting aimlessly through space is certainly exotic, remaining in a constant orbit around the earth has its advantages. For one, satellite-TV reception is a snap. Also, you can often save yourself a trip to earth for supplies by calling ahead and having NASA drop off your groceries on the way. The only real down side is that, because you'll be traveling at 17,500 mph, giving accurate directions to your home for parties becomes a real challenge.
There are certainly other considerations when purchasing a home in outer space. Things like travel time to and from work, that whole burning-up-in-the-atmosphere thing, the frustration of trying to poop-scoop in zero gravity. But, as my wife pointed out, there's one bonus you won't find with any residence purchased on earth:
A built-in vacuum.
You can write to Ned Hickson at:
The Siuslaw News at P.O. Box 10, Florence, OR 97439.