With the recent launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the International Space Station, everyone seems to be talking about commercial space travel. After all, hopping a bus to the stars for an intergalactic vacation is the stuff of science fiction!
Now, the newest entrant into the competitive space travel market could be a hydrogen balloon that allows passengers to behold the earth from 20 miles up. A fledgling company called Space Perspective wants tourists to experience space in their observation capsule, which would reach about one-third of the way to outer space. Though the trip won’t take passengers all the way to the stars, they’ll still be able to see the blackness above and the curvature of the Earth.
Prepare to Launch
Space Perspective has already signed an agreement with NASA, and hopes to launch its voyages from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But the startup’s founder says that they have only secured enough funding to launch a single, uncrewed test flight in 2021. If the test is a success, she says that the next launch won’t be far behind.
“We’re designing this to have a very low training requirement, with little more training than a passenger on a commercial jet, to make it as accessible as possible,” said Jane Poynter, co-founder and co-CEO with her husband, Taber MacCallum.
Defying gravity is no cheap ride. Tickets for a trip in Space Perspective’s observation capsule would cost roughly $125,000, Poynter says. But a steep price is necessary to cover the cost of building such a hydrogen balloon. Space Perspective says it requires a balloon large enough to fit an entire football field inside. The capsule beneath, called Neptune, would be 16 feet wide, with an interior to fit nine seats and a restroom.
But that’s bread crumbs compared to competitor Virgin Galactic, the space travel company founded by British billionaire Richard Branson. Virgin would charge passengers some $250,000 for a brief ride in a rocket ship that will reach 50 miles into the atmosphere. No space trips have launched just yet.
Learn more and view artistic renderings of the Space Perspective balloon at their website.