Though it wasn’t Conrad’s idea he certainly didn’t discourage the idea of a hotel on the Moon. The March 1963 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine ran a long and glowing profile on Conrad Hilton as the hard-nosed businessman who understood what people wanted and would stop at nothing to give it to them. Though not a quote from “Connie” himself, the article nonetheless ends with a space age promise from the writer: “it won’t be very long before our astronauts land on the Moon and immediately behind them will be Connie Hilton with his plans for his Lunar Hilton Hotel.”
Those plans began to take off in 1967. Barron, who was then president of Hilton, told the Wall Street Journal that he was planning to cut the ribbon at an opening ceremony for a Lunar Hilton hotel within his lifetime. He described the Lunar Hilton as a 100-room hotel that would be built below the surface. Guests would gather around a piano bar in an observation dome that allowed them to gaze back at earth.
Barron’s desire to build a Hilton on the Moon - whether it was merely clever PR or something more sincere - struck a chord with people all over the world. The hotel group even printed promotional “reservations cards” for customers to reserve a hotel room on the Moon. “In the [Hilton] archive we’ve got hundreds, if not thousands, of letters of people writing in to him,” says Dr Young. “They’d seen the picture of the reservation form and they wanted to get their name on there.
“You read the letters, from all around the world - I always remember the one from Pakistan for some reason it stands out in my mind -- but people really wanted to know that sometime in [their] lifetime we’ll have hotels on the Moon.”
The archive that Dr. Young oversees in Texas also contains promotional Lunar Hilton hotel keys which were distributed as promotional item in hotels. “The idea that we’d have a plastic key card like we do today was - I guess - just way too far out for ‘67, ‘68. And so [the Lunar Hilton key] looks like an old fashioned hotel room key, except it’s sleek,” Dr. Young said.
Just days before the first Moon landings in 1969, the Hilton lunar vision reappeared. Never one to miss an opportunity to sell the idea (or at least the hotel chain), Barron addressed the American Astronomical Society where he once again pressed that Hilton would soon be on the Moon. “I firmly believe that we are going to have hotels in outer space, perhaps even soon enough for me to officiate at the formal opening of the first,” he told the assembled crowd.
With the world gripped by Moon fever, it was an obvious story for newspapers recorded every twist and turn of the space race. For example, an article in the 15 July Lowell Sun in Lowell, Massachusetts picked up on the speech and painted a picture of the hotel of the future. Their story relies heavily on images of food and alcohol pills, an idea we examined here a few months back.
“Imagine yourself in the Galaxy Lounge of the Lunar Hilton - the first hotel on the Moon. In place of a ceiling, a transparent dome allows you to view the heavens as you never could see them from beneath the thick atmosphere covering Earth, Mars looks bigger and redder, the star do not twinkle, and you are just in time to watch an Earth-set,” it reads. “You order a martini. The bartender pushes a button and out comes a pre-measured, pre-cooled mixture of pure ethyl alcohol and distilled water -- 80 proof. Into the mixture he droops a gin and vermouth tablet. As you sip the result, the huge bright-blue Earth slips below the stark, brown horizon and you begin to think about a freeze-dried steak for dinner.”