While space tourism has been around for a while, it remains the realm of the ultra-rich. Billionaires Elon Musk and Richard Branson believe they can bring these fees down to something less astronomical for the “leisure class.” A new company, World View Enterprises, revealed yesterday that it anticipates providing an opportunity for those willing to shell out $75,000 (drinks included) to view the curvature of the earth from space. The company will not be going to outer space in a rocket ship, rather it intends to build a capsule that will rise to 18.5 miles above the earth’s surface utilizing a balloon.
The capsule would resemble the interior of a private plane. Following a one and a half hour trip upwards, the capsule would then drift for a couple of hours before the balloon is released and the capsule would return to earth with the help of an inflated para-sail.
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Of course, you wouldn’t technically become a star-sailor (astronaut), nor would you have actually entered outer space. But for $75,000 it will be a hell of a view.
World View hopes to begin offering its rides as early as 2015.
World View is led by the same people involved in Inspiration Mars, a private endeavor to launch two people in 2018 to do a flyby of the red planet.
“This is a very gentle flight that will last for hours aloft,” said Jane Poynter, World View’s chief executive. Describing the cabin, she said that it would be a “superbly comfortable, luxurious interior where you can get up and stand upright and move around and go back to the bar and get a drink.”
Sub-orbital rocket trips
In the last few years, Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace have enjoyed some success in their sub-orbital rocket trips with both having sold hundred of tickets for flights that could begin as early as next year. In contrast to World View’s plans, these trips will closely resemble a roller-coaster ride and won’t allow for the sipping of French bubbly.
Over the past few years, space tourism companies like Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace have sold hundreds of tickets for suborbital rocket trips, with the first paying passengers scheduled to get their rides as early as next year. But the rockets are essentially big roller-coaster rides, with the exciting portion at the top of the arc lasting just a few minutes.
“We really think there is a market for being able to contemplate the view,” said Taber MacCallum, the company’s chief technology officer.
They also come in $150,000 short of Virgin Galactic’s planned rides and $20,000 less than XCOR’s.
Unlike the Austrian daredevil who was sponsored by Red Bull, the return to earth promises to be less hair-raising.
“We promise we won’t open the door and have you jump back to Earth,” Ms. Poynter joked.
Despite the fact that the World View capsule won’t technically reach space, the Federal Aviation Administration plans to regulate it as a commercial space venture.
World View also plans to offer its balloon trips that will precede human flight to scientists to conduct experiments and potentially deliver weather instrumentation at a lower price than presently available.
Save your pennies, star people.