All aboard the space balloon!
For a mere $US125,000 ($160,325), you can now purchase a trip to soar into Earth’s upper atmosphere aboard Space Perspective’s luxury space balloon. This week, the Florida-based company began accepting reservations for its inaugural voyage, with liftoffs set to begin from Kennedy Space Centre in 2024.
Passengers will float above the stratosphere on the Spaceship Neptune, a balloon-borne pressurised capsule that offers a 360-degree panoramic view of their surroundings and is outfitted with non-glare windows for photography. Amenities include reclining seats, onboard bathrooms, a fully stocked bar, and, of course, Wi-Fi so you can send out space tweets to let all those nerds on the ground know how cool you are.
As for the balloon itself, it grows to the “size of a football stadium” when fully inflated and can ascend as high as 20 miles (30 kilometers) above the ground, according to Space Perspective. And in case you were wondering: Yes, the craft has a backup parachute capable of safely getting it back down to Earth if things get hairy.
Reserving a single seat will set you back $US1,000 ($1,283), or you can go all out and reserve a full, eight-seat craft for just $US8,000 ($10,261). The six-hour trip is designed to be low-impact and doesn’t require passengers to undergo special training or wear spacesuits, the company says.
“The space curious who would have considered it either too risky — or expensive — now have the opportunity to experience the exhilaration of travelling to space, with a safe and gentle ascent, a world away from rocket-fuelled space endeavours,” Space Perspective said in a press release Wednesday.
The company passed a major milestone earlier this month after successfully completing an uncrewed test flight of its Neptune One test vehicle, a full-size Spaceship Neptune simulator. Additional unmanned test flights are currently underway.
“This test flight of Neptune One kicks off our extensive test flight campaign, which will be extremely robust because we can perform tests without a pilot, making Spaceship Neptune an extremely safe way to go to space,” said Space Perspective founder and co-CEO Taber MacCallum in a press release at the time.
The company hasn’t confirmed how many tickets it’s sold so far, but MacCallum’s wife and co-CEO, Jane Poynter, told Florida Today that the response has been “insanely good.” Space Perspective has been selling tickets privately to gauge interest, and their first several flights are already sold out, she said. MacCallum also told the outlet that they’ve had a range of clientele express interests.
“We’ve got families that want to go together. We’ve got couples that want to propose or have their wedding. It’s accessible to life events,” MacCallum told said.
Which makes it sound like we’re not too far off from throwing children’s birthday parties in the stratosphere. Hey, stuff a few arcade cabinets in there, and you’ve got yourself a space Chuck E. Cheese.