Edge of Space

Balloon Rides to the Edge of Space


Lift-off: Initially, six passengers and two pilots will be aboard a pressurized capsule that is still under development

Tickets at $75 000 a pop will soon be available for balloon flights to the edge of space some 30 km above Earth.

World View Enterprises announced plans to send people up in a capsule, lifted 30 km by a high -altitude balloon. The flight would take 90 minutes to go up at about 330 m per minute, set sail up high for 2 hours. The capsule's interior will be roomy enough for its eight people to walk around and even get a drink at an on-board bar - but unfortunately there will be no experience of weightlessness.

While it's not quite space that starts at 100 km the plan requires approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees commercial space.

The company expects to begin flight tests of a demonstration vehicle this year in Arizona and plans to start selling tickets at $75 000 per person within a few months, said Chairwoman and President Jane Poynter - with commercial flights by 2016. 'There are balloons this size that have already flown up many, many times for decades,' Poynter said. 'From a technical point of view this is incredibly doable, low risk.'

The selling point is the view of the Earth and seeing its curve, she said. The venture isn't designed for passengers to experience weightlessness. Indeed, the flight will be more like that of Red Bull daredevil Felix Baumgartner, the Austrian adventurer who leapt from a balloon 38 km above the Earth, smashing the sound barrier during his descent and landing safely. 'Seeing the Earth hanging in the ink-black void of space will help people realize our connection to our home planet and to the universe around us, and will surely offer a transformative experience to our customers,'  said Poynter.

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