By ALLAN HALL
Futuristic: Orbital Technologies has revealed plans for a space hotel, which could be open by 2016
Russia may have lost the first space race to America - but it is now on course to become the Thomas Cook of the Milky Way with a hotel among the stars.
Design plans were unveiled in Moscow this week by Orbital Technologies, the Russian company seeking to get wealthy tourists boldy going where they have never gone before.
So far only 500 people have been into space. Aside from a few very rich men willing to pay for the privilege, they have all been trained astronauts and cosmonauts.
Space tourism: The hotel room pods will be fitted with binoculars and cameras so guests can enjoy the spectacular intergalactic views
Orbital's chief executive Sergei Kostenko said his orbiting hotel will be 'far more comfortable' than the International Space Station. With room for seven guests in four cabins, visitors to the 706 cubic feet pod will be able to see the wonders of space through huge windows.
Called the CSS (Commercial Space Station) it will be built 217 miles above the earth and accessed via Russian Soyuz rockets.
Available for use as an emergency bolthole for astronauts aboard the manned space station, visitors will also be able to choose beds that are either vertical or horizontal - due to the weightlessness of space. And its showers will be totally sealed to stop water going where it shouldn't.
Space age: The rooms will also act as an emergency bothole for astronauts at the manned space station
Mr Kostenko said: 'Our planned module inside will not remind you of the ISS. A hotel should be comfortable inside, and it will be possible to look at the Earth through large portholes.
'The hotel will be aimed at wealthy individuals and people working for private companies who want to do research in space.'
Food will be suited to individual preferences, and celebrity chefs could be employed to cook the meals before they were sent into space.
Mr Kostenko added that 'a number of agreements on partnership have already been signed' and further funding was being sought from private enterprises.
Drop-off point: Guests will be sent in to the Commercial Space Station via Russian Soyuz rockets
Exclusive: The hotel will be aimed at wealthy individuals and people working for private companies who want to do research in space
Opening time: Orbital Technologies said it hoped the hotel will be up and running in just five years time
A five day stay is rumoured to cost £100,000.
Orbital Technologies is affiliated with RSC Energia, the prime Russian contractor for the International Space Station and the operator of all of the long line of Soviet and Russian space stations.
Mr Kostenko added that his space station would be up and running for tourists, hopefully by 2016, long before Virgin boss Richard Branson builds his.
Price: The amount spent on the project has not been revealed, but a five-day stay will cost around £100,000