A Tucson-based start-up is planning to use a helium balloon to take passengers on a luxury space tour. The balloon will carry passengers in a pressurized capsule to a height of about 100,000 feet. The flight is called "World View."
The passengers will travel in the sky about one and a half hours, then spend two hours high above admiring the world. A free fall will begin once the two hours are over where the capsule will be disconnected from the balloon. The capsule will glide on the surface with a parafoil above the capsule which will be more effective in thick air.
The luxury tour costs $75,000, a price suitable for the high-end customers. A capsule can accomodate eight passengers. World View will hopefully begin its tours in three years.
Jane Poynter, co-founder of Paragon Space Development, said, "The sky's going to be completely black. You'll be able to see the curvature of the Earth."
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently announced it will not address the more difficult question whether Paragon's proposed altitude constitutes outer space, but the capsule will be treated as a space vehicle.
The World View team made a statement saying the company would offer a transformative human experience and it would be a "spectacular human flight into nearspace, unlike any other suborbital spaceflight experience being offered today, allowing passengers to remain aloft for hours at a comparably affordable price."
"In essence, we're a spacecraft. In fact, we're a spacecraft. Three years ago or so, it became clear that there's a space tourism industry. It seems to be bigger than Branson's personality," Paragon Co-founder Taber MacCallum said.
Poynter and MacCallum, in the early 1990s, were "bionauts." They were sealed inside a massive structure in the Arizona desert called Biosphere II and Paragon, their company, had signed contracts with NASA to provide them with technology for life-support.
Inspiration Mars, a 500-day mission that will send two astronauts to Mars, in five years' time when there is a rare alignment of the planets, is a mission that Paragon is working on alongside billionaire Dennis Tito.