Space: The Final Frontier…For The Rich!

“In an era in which privileged individuals search constantly for the next experience to obsess over and post about on social media, space truly remains the final frontier, a luxury that only the one percent of the one percent can afford. Brad Pitt and Katy Perry are among those who have reportedly plunked down $250,000 for a ride on one of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceships… Now a company called Axiom Space is giving those with piles of money and an adventuresome spirit something new to lust after: the prospect of an eight-day trip to space that is plush, if not entirely comfortable, and with a bit of the luster of NASA as well.”  S. Marikar, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Astronaut Gardner Holds A For Sale Sign Photograph by Everett


Excerpt: The Rich Are Planning To Leave This Wretched Planet By Sheila Marikar, The New York Times

“Circumambulating the floor of his gray carpeted office on a recent Wednesday, Mike Suffredini — NASA veteran, Houston native and the chief executive officer of Axiom Space — stopped in front of a wood compartment about as big as a telephone booth.

‘It’s no New York hotel room,’ he said with a shrug, as if apologizing for its size. ‘It pretty much is, actually!’ said Gabrielle Rein, Axiom’s marketing director. 

A rendering that screams open the pod bay doors. Credit: Axiom Space

It was an early mock-up of a cabin that will reside inside a commercial space station, among the first of its kind, that Axiom is building: a mash-up of boutique hotel, adult space camp, and NASA-grade research facility designed to hover approximately 250 miles above the earth. Axiom hired Philippe Starck, the French designer who has lent panache to everything from high-end hotel rooms to mass-market baby monitors, to outfit the interior of its cabins. Mr. Starck lined the walls with a padded, quilted, cream-colored, suede-like fabric and hundreds of tiny LED lights that glow in varying hues depending on the time of day and where the space station is floating in relation to the earth.

Mike Suffredini, left, with designer Philippe Starck, with their mockup.CreditTodd Spoth for The New York Times

‘My vision is to create a comfortable egg, friendly, where walls are so soft and in harmony with the movements of the human body in zero gravity,’ Mr. Starck wrote in an email, calling his intended effect ‘a first approach to infinity. The traveler should physically and mentally feel his or her action of floating in the universe.’

The Starck-designed station will supposedly open in 2022, but Axiom says they can start sending curious travelers into orbit as early as 2020. (Note: nearly everything space-related is delayed by years, sometimes decades.) They’ll just have to make do with the comparatively rugged accommodations of the International Space Station, which is working with Axiom in addition to other commercial space station outfits…Axiom’s station can house eight passengers, including a professional astronaut.

Photo- Veranda

Each will pay $55 million for the adventure, which includes 15 weeks of training, much of it at the Johnson Space Center, a 10-minute drive from Axiom’s headquarters, and possibly a trip on one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX rockets. Thus far, three entities have signed up for on-the-ground training, which starts at $1 million, Mr. Suffredini said, though he declined to name them. The inaugural trip will be only $50 million. ‘It’s a bargain!’ he said.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Many call the stay at Axiom glamping at 1,320,000 feet.
  2. Circumambulating the floor of his office Mike Suffredini stopped in front of a wood compartment about as big as a telephone booth.
  3. It was an early mock-up of a cabin that will reside inside a commercial space station.
  4. Some may suffer from Claustrophobia.
  5. They’re putting big inflatable space pods into orbit.
  6. These habitat and outpost companies are great.
  7. Passengers  take a medical exam, administered before the rest of training begins.
  8. The exam includes tests of mind and mettle.
  9. A tour guide quaintly referred to the onboard bathroom as a potty.
  10. He believes that Axiom is crucial to the survival of our species.

Color Vocabulary Map by Enchanted Learning


Reading Comprehension


Directions: The following sentences are from the article. Choose the correct word for each blank space from the word list  or make up your own words.

Axiom ___will be ___to ___a NASA-grade ___for the rocket ride to and ___the station. (Features include a fiberglass___ and a___ tube for ___small sips of water. Also, a diaper.)

WORD LIST:  consuming, spacesuit,  torso,  required,  from, drink, wear,  guests,

Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

To understand/understood the grand/great  scale/scales of Axiom’s plants/plans, it helps to know that astronauts have, thus far, largely been roughing/rough it up there. The Johnson Space Center contains/contain a life-size mock-up of the ISS, whose drab, beige interior is lined with drab/dribble, gray/grey handholds to tether down things and people, necessary given the lack of gravity/gravy. A tour guide quaintly referred to the onboard/outboard bathroom as a ‘potty.’ There are no showers.


III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions.

  1. Would you like to travel in a space ship? Provide reason why or why not.
  2. Do you think it’s fair that only very rich people can afford this experience?
  3. Compose a letter or note to a  person mentioned in the article telling her/him their thoughts on the topic. Share the letters as a class.


1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.


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