There are companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic that are lining up to provide space tourism to the very wealthy masses, but what about stargazers on tighter budgets? World View Enterprises has now been approved for a “near space” balloon adventure that will take passengers way up in the sky for a fantastic view of the Earth. The price? $75,000 per person.
You have to keep in mind that the balloon doesn’t quite get up into what we would really consider “space,” which is defined as being 100km above the Earth’s surface, but it does get awfully close and it is doing it at a fraction of the price. The “experience” has now been approved by the US Federal Aviation Administration and the first flights are being planned for a 2016 launch.
Based out of Tucson, World View Enterprises has developed a pressurized, shirt-sleeve environment capsule that will be lifted to an altitude of just 30km, approximately three times the altitude of commercial aircraft. The capsule is a horizontal cylinder measuring 3 meters in diameter and about 6 meters in length.
The capsule is connected to a parasail for recovery, which in turn is connected to a massive 400,000 cubic meter (14 million cubic feet) helium balloon. That’s about half the size of the balloon that took Felix Baumgartner up for his space jump.
You float up, you see the curvature of the Earth, and you descend back down. The brunt of the cost comes from filling that balloon, which rings in at around $50,000 or so. The FAA is requiring that the capsule be able to survive long-term space exposure, just in case. We could have a Sandra Bullock-esque Gravity moment, after all.