Imagine the most sublime travel adventure, a journey without a destination, just to experience the silence of the cosmos, the serenity of the stars and the possibility of viewing our planet suspended in the infinite darkness of the universe. This pleasure, which until now was only reserved for astronauts, will soon be available for us, mere mortals with the spirit of adventure and exploration.
World View, a company based in Tucson, Arizona, has committed time and resources to make the dream of space travel available to the general public. As an alternative to the space flights offered by Virgin´s SpaceShipTwo, the company has announced that starting in 2016, it will provide travel to (almost) outer space. Equipped with the latest technology, supervised and approved by the United States Federal Aviation Administration, World View will offer day trips that will take passengers to see the curvature of Earth.
Travelers will be transported inside a capsule attached to a giant helium balloon, which weighs approximately two tons and has a surface area similar to that of a football stadium. The monumental balloon provides the necessary force to lift the capsule and its passengers to a height of 20 miles above the surface of the Earth. Although these balloon rides cannot be considered “space travel”—in order to go to outer space, one should reach an elevation of 60 miles— this experience gives us the chance to explore “our connection to the planet and the universe around us,” says Jane Poynter, CEO of World View.
The objective of these trips is to witness a unique landscape, seldom seen by regular tourists, something we’ve only seen in pictures. “You can sit there with your favorite drink in hand and enjoy extraordinary views of Earth,” Poynter explains. “I think [at World View] we have the opportunity to provide a truly amazing experience to people. We also take this opportunity to open a new field for the exercise of human curiosity, scientific research and education.”
The Federal Aviation Administration of the United States has determined that the capsule should be thoroughly tested to confirm its ability to survive long periods of exposure in space, even though there are no plans to elevate it more than 22 miles above Earth’s surface. The balloon will raise the capsule with only six passengers during each trip, which will last about four hours. The company is seriously considering Spaceport America in New Mexico as the launching site for their first flights.
There is a considerable number of individuals already interested in participating in the World View experience, but we should warn you that the ride back to Earth may not be as smooth as going into space since the capsule must be detached from the balloon, which will prompt a free fall until it reaches the required speed and a special parachute opens in mid-air, thus slowing down the fall and gaining control for a smooth landing. Fascinating!
There is no doubt World View has a very exciting project in its hands, a real treat for mankind, especially if you considered the $75,000-price of the amazing experience, “drinks and snacks included”, says Poynter. ■