Science/Tech

New Startup Wants To Send People To Space In A Giant Balloon

Large companies like Blue Origin, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic have long been working on new spacecraft and technologies to promote space tourism. Now, a new startup wants to join the growing effort to make space travel more accessible to private citizens.

Space Perspective wants to send paying customers to the edge of space but without explosive rocket technology. How? The company designed unique capsules, called Spaceship Neptune, that will be pulled upward by a 650-foot-tall balloon filled with buoyant hydrogen.

"We’re committed to fundamentally changing the way people have access to space — both to perform much-needed research to benefit life on Earth and to affect how we view and connect with our planet," Space Perspective founder and co-CEO Jane Poynter said in a statement. "Today, it is more crucial than ever to see Earth as a planet, a spaceship for all humanity and our global biosphere." 

Spaceship Neptune is expected to carry passengers to approximately 100,000 feet. The trip will take two hours ascending to the intended altitude and another two hours returning to Earth. 

Before the return to the surface, passengers will spend another two hours to enjoy breathtaking views in space. The capsule will feature seats, a bar, a bathroom and huge windows for eight passengers and a pilot, Space.com reported.

Space Perspective said the commercial space flight will allow various people to reach the edge of the space. Spaceship Neptune can carry older people and even those who are not in great physical condition to go aboard rockets. 

"That is really what this is all about," Poynter said at a recent news conference. "Everybody should be able to see the Earth from space."

Space Perspective plans to launch the capsule from the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Florida's Space Coast. After the trip, the craft will come down to the Atlantic Ocean, where passengers will be picked up by a ship. 

The company has yet to finalize the price for the unique balloon experience. But a ticket will likely sell for around $125,000, according to Poynter and co-CEO Taber MacCallum. 

Space Perspective plans to begin flight tests in the first quarter of 2021.  

Moon view from Earth A nearly full moon shines brightly on the Earth's atmosphere on Mar.8, 2015 enticing astronauts aboard the International Space Station to snap this image as part of the Earth Observation program. NASA Johnson Space Center

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