This 'Space Balloon' Could Open Up An Entirely New Frontier Of Space Tourism
We've spent so long in the last few years marvelling at the wondrous, space-going creations of SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, you could argue that it's cost us a little bit of perspective. The fact remains that very few people will ever have the means to be able to step aboard a spaceship once the first real space tourism flights start taking off in earnest.
But what about space tourism for the common man? Well, a new company has emerged, boasting a more back-to-basics approach to offering people a true spacefaring experience. In a way, it's so ingenious, we're surprised it hadn't really been thought of before.
Space tourism start up Space Frontier is a company that has conceptualised the future of mass market space travel as using balloons, not incredibly expensive space ships, to get people to the edge of space and back safely, making for a truly mesmerising experience that's far more economical.
The mechanism is ultimately very simple. A pressurised eight-person capsule is attached to what is ultimately a huge weather balloon, which will rise from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin a 100,000 feet rise to the edge of the atmosphere. The ascent will apparently take about 2 hours, after which guests will have an hour floating far above the earth's surface to gaze at the incredible views available, along with the vast expanse of open space.
Per Space Perspective's website, such an altitude will offer the chance for tourists to view some of the planet's greatest natural phenomena, like the Northern Lights, from an unprecedented position.
After the guests' trip into space is complete, the balloon will then safely descend into the ocean, bringing the total journey time to about six hours. They'll be catered throughout the entire journey by way of an on-board bar and lavatory.
While Space Perspective are marketing their trip as a luxury experience, they also realise the potential of the vessel as a prospective research facility, and have put out an open invitation for scientists and researchers to conduct experiments on board. "Areas of particular interest to scientists include atmospheric science that could shed light on the greater workings of our planet’s climate and air systems; astro- and solar-physics that illuminate our understanding of our universe; and, astrobiology to explore the limits of life on our planet and beyond," says their website.
"Neptune has areas dedicated to instruments that can be repeatedly flown many times, which is rare for space scientists who typically only have a single or very few times to perform an experiment," they continue, adding that 'citizen explorers', AKA ordinary people with a particular scientific interest, will also get the chance to participate in research aboard Neptune.
Neptune balloon trips will apparently begin next year. Ticket prices are still yet to be confirmed, but you can find out more here.