Space enthusiasts will have the possibility to travel to space via one more option if everything goes according to plan. A new company named Space Perspective intends to send paying customers and scientific cargos to the stratosphere onboard of Neptune, a balloon-borne pressurized capsule that is set to debut its flight tests at the beginning of 2021.
“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 yesterday, in which the company announced its plans.
“Today, it is more crucial than ever to see Earth as a planet, a spaceship for all humanity and our global biosphere,” Poynter said, making a reference to the ‘overview effect’ usually mentioned by astronauts who have traveled to space.
Traveling in Style
The Spaceship Neptune capsule can house a pilot and eight passengers, having seats, a bar, a bathroom, and massive windows that will enable travelers to enjoy great views of Earth from space, the company officials said.
The capsule will launch from NASA‘s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Florida’s Space Coast and head east over the Atlantic Ocean during winter, and west over the Gulf of Mexico on summer flights due to the pattern of the wind. It will spend approximately two hours to reach an altitude of about 100,000 feet (30,000 meters) while attached to a balloon measuring 650 feet (200 meters) high, and filled with buoyant hydrogen.
“Helium has become quite difficult to obtain,” Space Perspective founder and co-CEO Taber MacCallum said. “It’s used for a lot of medical practices and for launching rockets.”
The company has not yet announced a price for its balloon experience, but a ticket will probably sell first for around $125,000, according to MacCallum and Poynter. That is about half the latest starting price for a trip onboard of Virgin Galactic’s suborbital SpaceShipTwo space plane. Neptune’s ‘gentle ride’ should make it an ideal option for a large variety of people, the company’s representatives said.
“That is really what this is all about,” Poynter said. “Everybody should be able to see the Earth from space.”
Everyone Has a Chance
Everyone could have the chance to visit space in the newly-designed balloon experience, as the nonprofit Space for Humanity has chosen Space Perspective as a ‘preferred partner’ for its Citizen Astronaut Program, which will cover the costs for the flights of selected people who will serve as space ambassadors after returning to Earth.
“Space for Humanity is cultivating a movement to expand access to space for all of humanity, and this partnership represents a big leap in making that happen,” Dylan Taylor, founder of Space for Humanity and CEO of Voyager Space Holdings, said.
The company is also collaborating with NASA, as it signed a Space Act Agreement to use test sites at KSC and influence agency expertise in fields including wind and trajectory examination. Space Perspective has also signed a lease agreement with Space Florida, which runs the old Shuttle Landing Facility and linked sites under a contract with NASA.
The concept for Spaceship Neptune has been in development for a few decades, dating back to Poynter and MacCallum’s two years at the Biosphere 2 research institute in southern Arizona in the 1990s. Not long ago, the two partners helped to develop the concept at one of their previous companies, World View Enterprises, which is based in Arizona.
The company is advising people to sign up for the trip already, although the ticket prices have not yet been set.
“We’re already giving people seat allocations, even though you don’t have to pay any money now,” Poynter said. “That way, the early birds get at the front of the line.”