ne of the most impressive pieces on display at Marc Newson’s latest
, at the Gagosian Gallery, New York, is, in fact,
incomplete—a cross-sectional mock-up of the passenger cabin of the Astrium Space Plane, a
commuter space travel vessel he designed for the European Aeronautic
Defense and Space Company. “It’s designed to take paying passengers into
space for a brief period of time,” he says. “They experience zero
gravity, then come back to earth again.” It may be one of the more
far-flung concepts that he has worked with in the course of his career,
but, as he explains below in an extract from his interview with Alison
Chernick, the director of today’s exclusive film
on NOWNESS, its final
realization is eminently possible. Do you want to go space?
I would love to go to space. For sure. I would go in a heartbeat. I
think, at this point in time, my choice would be to go up in a Russian
Soviet rocket. And stay at the International Space Station for a few
days.How and why do you go about designing a commuter space craft?
was commissioned. I worked in conjunction with a company called EADS,
which is the biggest European manufacturer of aircraft, and they own
Airbus. They also manufacture rockets, through a company called Astrium,
which is the largest European rocket launcher manufacturer. So I think
they’re uniquely qualified to be able to design a safe spacecraft. Whether it’s made or not? I’m not sure what’s happening right now but
we’re all hoping that it does evolve into a real project.What kind of regulatory issues do you have to deal with?
in terms of regulatory issues regarding paying passengers that want to
go to space, there really are none. That’s one of the interesting
things. It’s a burgeoning industry that a lot of people are thinking
about and working on, but it’s something where a lot of legislation
doesn’t exist yet. And in terms of ergonomics?
are a lot of issues that I had to deal with when designing it. The
fundamental issue that one has to come to grips with is that it takes
off like an aircraft. It’s basically horizontal in relation to the
surface of the earth. But at a certain point it becomes vertical like a
rocket. How does a passenger safely experience that transition? And do
it in a way that is safe?
What's the solution?[He
sits in a chair in the space craft]
I call these hammocks. They pivot,
so when the direction of the fuselage changes, the weight of your body
and gravity will force you to always remain in the same position
relative to the surface of the earth. You could otherwise do it with actuated, mechanical systems, but they’re very, very heavy and
weight is one of the biggest obstacles. They’re also very prone to
failure. So why not use natural forces to achieve the same thing? Also,
these seats take up a very minimal amount of volume in the cabin because
when you become weightless you’re just floating around the cabin, so you
don’t want to be bumping into chairs and things. That’s why I kept them
very close to the ground. It’s between lying down and sitting
down. What other features did you introduce for the civilian customer?
thing’s full of windows because that’s the point of the exercise. You
want to see the earth when you get into space. And all these grab
handles that you can use to pull yourself around. Getting out is not so