Taller than a commercial jetliner, higher than a spy plane, it’s a . . . balloon? Humans have long been fixated on outer space and flight. But while some focus on interstellar travel, one company offers another option—a balloon ride to the edge of space and then back down to terra firma.
Space Perspective is a start-up space tourism company. For about $125,000, the company plans to offer a peek into space from the comfort of what looks like a giant Christmas tree ornament.
The company’s main goal is selling a life-changing experience: viewing Earth from afar. The company hopes voyagers will see how small the planet is compared to all of space. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every balloon traveler realized the vastness of the universe God created, and asked with the psalmist, “What is man that you are mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4)
Spaceship Neptune’s capsule functions similarly to the payload of a weather or hot air balloon. A ginormous hydrogen balloon floats on top; the futuristic passenger capsule rides along below.
Neptune won’t require oxygen masks or high-tech spacesuits. Instead, the cabin will regulate temperature, oxygen, and air pressure—even in the freezing atmosphere 19 miles above Earth. Space Perspective describes this ride-of-a-lifetime as happening in “a shirt-sleeves environment.”
Neptune can transport up to eight daring passengers plus a pilot in style. The capsule will feature seats, refreshments, a restroom, and huge windows providing spectacular views of Earth against the blackness of space. Travelers will rise upward until reaching the outer edge of the atmosphere—about 100,000 feet above the Earth. There they can enjoy a two-hour floating experience.
After that, the balloon will descend for a sea landing. A ship will pick up the capsule, and passengers will disembark. The boat will return them to shore. The entire near-space experience should span about six hours.
“[Fewer] than 20 people have ever been to the edge of space under a space-balloon, far fewer than have been in orbit around our planet,” says Space Perspective. “For the first time, we can make the thrill of spaceflight accessible to you, our Explorers, in a safe, comfortable manner with minimal physical requirements and as simple as boarding an airplane.”
The company plans to launch its passenger-toting balloons from NASA’s former shuttle facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Officials are counting on riders to advertise the experience for them. They’ll be encouraging folks “to post to your favorite social media sites” during the ride. Spaceship Neptune could begin taking passengers for selfies with the real-deal stars starting in 2021.