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Space real estate - Joel Hall

This summer, America officially came out of its deep economic recession.

After four consecutive quarters of loss, the economy grew by 3.5 percent between July and September, according to Associated Press reports.

For most Americans, however, that growth has yet to materialize into tangible gains. It's still hard to find a job, keep a job, get a loan, or buy a home. In many places, the real estate market has tanked to the point that people are almost giving homes away.

While difficult times create desperation, they also breed innovation. Rather than focusing on the dismal economy of the land and sea, some bright entrepreneurs are starting to turn their heads toward the sky -- or rather, toward the endless vacuum of space.

While this year has been a terrible year for Main Street, it's been a booming year for space. This week, after intentionally "bombing the moon" in an effort to detect water vapor, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was successful in finding water -- enough to fill a dozen, two-gallon buckets.

Is it the discovery of the world's next great oil reserve? No, as I am sure America would be busy building a pipeline straight to the source, if that were the case. However, it is a giant leap toward the concept of the moon being a place capable of sustaining life for extended periods of time.

NASA expects to find more water in other areas of the moon. If those efforts are fruitful, those water reserves could prove to be a vital resource for a manned moon base.

I don't imagine we'll be seeing a Bellagio hotel on the surface of the moon anytime soon. However, the discovery of water there increases the prospect of people being able to visit and stay, somewhat comfortably, in a place that was once thought to be uninhabitable.

While flying short of the moon, other entrepreneurs are amazingly close to making space a weekend travel destination.

A group of Barcelona, Spain-based architects are already taking reservations for the Galactic Suite Space Resort (www.galacticsuite.com). The resort, which expects to accept its first paying customers in 2012, is planning to bill itself as the first hotel in space.

For the cost of $4.4 million dollars per person, guests would experience an eight-week astronaut training course on a tropical island. After the training course, two spaceship pilots would accompany four guests to a three-night stay in a hotel orbiting around the Earth.

During their stay, guests will be able to crawl around their pod-like rooms in Velcro suits, travel around the world every 80 minutes, and see the sun rise 15 times a day, according to the company's web site.

For a more economical way into space, Sir Richard Branson and his new venture, Virgin Galactic, are planning on taking people on commercial flights into space for about $200,000 a pop. Spaceport America (www.spaceportamerica.com), currently in the beginning phases of construction in New Mexico, is expected to employ 3,500 people by 2020 and facilitate relatively-affordable (key word, "relatively") space travel within the next decade.

I've thought about buying a house in the next couple of years, but, perhaps, it's a good time to start looking for that timeshare in space that I've always wanted.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.