Watch out, Virgin Galactic. There’s a new space tourism company in town.
A company called World View is planning to float passengers up to the edge of space — about 20 miles into the sky — via balloon by the end of 2016.
This 5-hour joy ride will include cocktails, stunning views of the stars, the blackness of space, and the curvature of Earth, all for the hefty sum of $US75,000 — about the price of a new entry-level Tesla.
Here’s a peak at what it will be like to float at an altitude of 100,000 feet, above 99% of Earth’s atmosphere.
After arriving at the launch site, six passengers and two crew members would climb aboard the fully-pressurised Winnebago-sized capsule, which contains a bathroom and a refreshment bar.
A giant helium-filled polyethylene balloon will keep the cabin afloat. As the gas expands and decreases in density, the capsule will float into the air until it is fully inflated.
Once the helium completely fills the balloon, the package stops ascending as it reaches its target altitude at about 100,000 feet. To put this into perspective, commercial jets fly at about 45,000 feet, and U2 spy planes speed at around 75,000 feet.
They will also be able to see the curvature of the Earth, which sometimes elicits a cognitive shift in awareness called the 'overview effect.'
Many astronauts report that seeing our planet from such a high perch makes everything happening on Earth seem tiny and insignificant. Passengers will get to enjoy this view for about 2 hours.
As the capsule starts to descend, the balloon will separate at about 50,000 feet and a ParaWing will glide the capsule down to the landing site.
Once the capsule lands, about 4 to 5 hours later, a private jet will return the passengers to the initial launch site. Depending on the time of year, the distance between the launch and landing site could be anywhere from 0 to 300 miles.
According to World View, the aerospace community considers high-altitude ballooning to be dependable and safe.
They performed a successful test launch in the summer of 2014, lifting a much smaller, passenger-less version of the prototype to 120,000 feet and back down to 50,000 feet.
World View aims to finish full-scale testing by the end of 2016, at which point they expect to start flying passengers.
The company is still evaluating potential launch sites in the US, and whether or not children will be able to fly. They are currently accepting reservations for children ages 10 and up, as long as they're accompanied by an adult.
If you have a spare $75,000 to spend on the most out-of-this-world balloon ride of your life, you can reserve a spot at the link below.
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