WASHINGTON, October 23 (RIA Novosti) – “Space balloons” could soon be taking wealthy passengers on luxury rides to the “edge of space,” offering tourists views of the blackness of space and the curvature of our planet, according to US media reports.
"Seeing the Earth hanging in the ink-black void of space will help people realize our connection to our home planet and to the universe around us,” said Jayne Poynter, CEO of Tucson-based World View Enterprises, in a statement quoted by Space.com.
Tucson-based World View hopes to use helium-filled balloons to send passengers 19 miles (30.57km, or 100,000 feet) into earth’s atmosphere where they will glide for two hours before returning to earth, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
At $75,000 per passenger, it is a relatively cheap alternative to rival commercial space travel firms. Virgin Galactic charges $250,000 for a seat in its six-seat SpaceShipTwo vessel, while XCOR charges $95,000 for a ride in its single-seat Lynx vehicle, Space.com said Tuesday.
None of them has flown yet, while World View’s maiden balloon flight is three years away, according to the Washington Post.
Virgin and XCOR also promise to take passengers 62 miles (99.77km) above the earth, giving customers a genuine sub-orbital flight and the experience of weightlessness.
But even if World View’s balloons will not fly so high, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced it will treat them as space vehicles – although in a letter to World View’s lawyers the FAA declined to “address the more difficult question of whether Paragon’s proposed altitude of 30 kilometers constitutes outer space.”