If you’ve always wanted to glimpse Earth from near-space, there’s hope!
A private space tourism company called World View wants to gently float people almost 20 miles above Earth’s surface in balloon-toted capsules, and they recently made an important stride to reaching that goal.
On February 20, the company operated a parafoil — a massive, rectangular parachute — more than 19 miles above Earth’s surface, twice the previous record, World View chief engineer Sebastian Padilla told Venture Beat.
World View plans on carrying passengers to such great heights by the end of 2016 — at a price of $US75,000 per person.
Each trip will involve a 90 to 120-minute ascent, a few hours at maximum altitude with access to a bar and internet connection, and a descent of 30 minutes.
The passenger-carrying capsule is lifted by a massive helium balloon.
In order to return to the ground, the capsule is detached from the balloon and guided down by the parafoil alone.
The balloon itself also falls to Earth, where it is recovered by a World View ground team.
The record-breaking event on February 20 proved an important point in this last process of safely bringing passengers back from such great heights, Padilla explained to Venture Beat. During the test, the capsule ferried a scientific payload from Montana State University and the University of North Florida.
“Before yesterday, there was a question of whether you could even fly a parafoil from these altitudes,” Padilla said, because of challenges posed by the low air pressure and cold temperatures at that altitude.
Taber MacCallum, the company’s CTO, said in a press release: “The successful flight of the parafoil at this altitude brings us closer to flying private citizens safely to the edge of space.”
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