You may get to see space in just three or four years using a balloon. And, unlike SpaceShipTwo, you'll be able to be up there for a couple of hours instead of just a few minutes.
The ticket price will also be less expensive than Virgin Galactic's rocket plane, but not that much. While a trip in SpaceShipTwo will be a whooping $US200,000, in Bloon — the name of this aircraft — you will have to pay a sightly-less-whooping $US156,000 seat. The differences don't end there: SpaceShipTwo will get you up to 100km while Bloon will only reach 36km. That also means that you will not be able to experience zero gravity, unlike with Virgin Galactic's wonderplane.
You will, however, see the curvature of Earth and its atmosphere for about two hours. An experience that people have seen before on other balloons, according to zero2infinity's founder and CEO José Mariano López-Urdiales:
The first people who described the earth as a blue ball were not in rockets. They were flying in balloons. [...]A balloon stays for a longer time than a ballistic parabola. A suborbital vehicle is limited by the laws of ballistics and only lasts a few minutes. It can only last so long where the sky is black and the view is beautiful.
I'm sure it would be absolutely amazing but... well, it just will not be the thrill of getting to cruise altitude on WhiteKnightTwo and then experiencing the rocket firing up at full throttle inside SpaceShipTwo until you reach sub-orbital altitude.
López-Urdiales had this idea a long time ago, after working for the European Space Agency and Boeing, but the company just completed their first round of funding from one of Spain's most important banks. That's good, because that means they seem to be on their way to achieve their objectives. And the more people that compete in this arena, the cheaper it will get. Faster too. [Inbloon via Autopia]