Travel To The Edge Of Space In Style
October 23, 2013

US Firm To Begin Offering Balloon Rides To The Edge Of Space

[ Watch the Video: Riding High To The Edge Of Space ]

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

If you’ve ever wanted to touch the stars, but can’t afford the quarter-of-a-million dollars required to hitch a ride on a rocket, a new Arizona-based start-up has come up with a slightly more affordable alternative means of transportation.

The company is a subsidiary of Paragon Space Development Corporation named World View, and according to Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post, it plans to use a helium balloon to allow up to six passengers at a time travel to the edge of space.

World View’s balloon rides will reach heights of nearly 100,000 feet and will cost $75,000 per person, Achenbach said. The journey would begin with a 1.5 hour period of ascension, and would then permit customers to “spend two hours admiring the world from on high.” Afterwards, the main capsule would be disconnected from the balloon, beginning a free-fall that over time would be slowed by a parafoil hooked to the top of the capsule.

One caveat of the balloon trip, however, is that passengers will not be able encounter the same feeling of weightlessness experienced by rocket-flight passengers. The view will be the emphasis of the journey.

“Majestic views of our planet, slowly expanding below, are certain to captivate you, as you ascend to the edge of space,” the company’s website claims. “The transition from horizon to the blackness of space will thrill you. The luxurious comfort and gentle glide of your vessel will spoil you for hours, while you sip your beverage of choice. The curvature of the Earth will simply take your breath away. A truly transformative human experience.”

“You can be sitting up there having your beverage of choice watching this extraordinary spectacle of the Earth below you and the blackness of space,” World View co-founder Jane Poynter told Discovery News. “It really is very gentle. You can be up at altitude for hours, for days for research if you need to be... I think we have the opportunity to give a really, really incredible experience to people -- and for a lot less than most of what’s out on the market right now.”

While Discovery News reports that the company plans to begin selling tickets within the next few months, Taber MacCallum, Paragon's chief executive and co-founder, told the Wall Street Journal that flights will not begin until at least 2016. That tentative date could be pushed back even further due to “testing or regulatory complications.”

While the company reportedly plans to conduct launches from multiple locations throughout the US and worldwide, they declined to disclose an initial base of operations. However, media reports citing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) documents suggest that World View will conduct their first balloon flights at the Spaceport America facility in New Mexico.

The decision to unveil the project this week was prompted by a forthcoming FAA ruling that the eight-person (six passengers and two pilots) balloon officially qualifies as a spacecraft.

Irene Klotz of Reuters reported the administration rules that at heights nearing 100,000 feet, “water and blood boil, and an unprotected person would rapidly experience fatal decompression.” They added that while they rendered “no opinion” as to whether or not that height constituted outer space, “a person would experience the same physiological responses at 30 kilometers as if exposed to the environment of low-Earth orbit.”