Startup company Space Perspective wants you to travel into space aboard a balloon.
Dubbed Spaceship Neptune, their planned space tourism craft consists of a “high-performance balloon and pressured capsule” large enough to carry research payloads and up to eight passengers. Their goal is currently to perform an un-crewed test flight from the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in 2021, and enter full operation by 2024.
“Flights launch from the iconic runway where the Space Shuttle landed upon its return from space. Additional planned launch locations include Cecil Spaceport in Florida, Hawaii, Alaska and elsewhere as we expand operations around the planet.”
The company recently raised $7 million for the endeavor, and already has a vacation club lined up and ready to get its resort members into the stratosphere.
Spaceship Neptune will reach heights of about 19 miles (~100,000 feet). Each trip will carry eight passengers on six-hour journeys (two to ascend, two to explore, and two to return), after which the space balloon will land in the ocean. It won’t come cheap, though: Each trip will apparently cost around $125,000 per ticket.
The two co-founders of Space Perspective, Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum, along with the rest of their team, are no strangers to space science and, indeed, high-performance balloon experiences.
In the early 1990s, the two participated in an Earth-based closed-system experiment, during which eight scientists lived inside the research facility Biosphere 2, located in Oracle, Arizona, for two years. The purpose of the experiment was to gauge how well closed ecological systems could support human life in outer space. (And in case you were wondering, Earth itself is Biosphere 1.)
In 2014, MacCallum also acted as the chief technology and safety officer for StratEx, which “launched Google Executive Alan Eustace to 136,000 feet under a balloon” and successfully returned him to Earth, breaking the Stratos Spacedive record.
I guess if anyone’s going to get space balloon tourism up and running, it’s these folks.