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After a devastating year of life on Earth, here’s your chance to get far, far away from it all.
Space flight company Space Perspective has debuted a $125,000 package that brings travelers to the edge of our atmosphere on a space-age hot air balloon.
The Florida-based firm aims to usher in a “new era in luxury travel experiences” with their groundbreaking — or air-breaking, if you will — tour aboard the Spaceship Neptune, a massive, hydrogen-supported balloon with a passenger capsule in tow that can float atop Earth’s atmosphere. There, amateur astronauts can soak up the splendor of our home planet, thanks to panoramic windows and reclining seats.
If liquid courage is called for, a bar — and bathrooms, of course — are also built into the capsule’s compact design.
Individual and group reservations are now open for the inaugural 2024 launch, expected to take place at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Typical spaceflight places high demands on passengers and the planet as millions of pounds of fuel are required for their turbulent launches. Rather than bursting through the atmosphere at g-force speeds as rockets do, Spaceship Neptune offers a “radically gentle voyage” for guests aboard the eight-person capsules, designed to be tugged upward by a 650-foot-tall hydrogen-filled balloon — the most eco-friendly space travel option to date.
During a video news conference last year, Space Perspective husband-and-wife CEOs Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum explained that Spaceship Neptune would spend about two hours reaching its maximum altitude of about 100,000 feet — 18 miles up — for a trip lasting about six hours. Proof of concept came on June 18 after a successful test flight from the Space Coast Spaceport in Titusville, Florida.
In spite of the 1937 Hindenburg disaster — which saw the hydrogen-filled Zeppelin explode, killing 35 people — Space Perspective insists that hydrogen was their only option.
“Helium has become quite difficult to obtain,” said MacCallum during a 2020 press presentation. “It’s used for a lot of medical practices and for launching rockets.”
Space Perspective emerges at a time when many others rush to compete, including some of the world’s top air travel companies, such as Virgin Galactic and Boeing.
The competitive $125,000 price is a fraction of the $28 million bid for a spot on the maiden voyage of Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ commercial space flight endeavor, set for liftoff July 20.
Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is preparing the “world’s first all-civilian” crew aboard its Falcon 9 rocket later this year, with funds raised from seats sold going to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Tours to the International Space Station will commence at $55 million per tourist next year, and, in 2023, a SpaceX Starship led by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa — who put up an undisclosed amount of money for six seats on the spacecraft — is heading to the moon.
Space Perspective insists that theirs is a different sort of experience, combining innovation with the ease of luxury travel.
“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,” said Poynter last year.
“That is really what this is all about,” she added. “Everybody should be able to see the Earth from space.”
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