Near-Space Tourism Takes Off

If you were riveted by Felix Baumgartner’s parachute jump from the edge of space last year, now’s your chance to sign up for a similar experience. Tickets went on sale Saturday for the ultimate hot-air balloon trip. For just $75,000, American firm World View Experiences will fly you 19 miles to the very edge of space. The first trip, expected to launch in 2016, will take eight passengers to the edge of the atmosphere in a capsule attached to a helium balloon. The balloon will launch from Sir Richard Branson’s spaceport in New Mexico and make a two-hour ascent to its cruising height of 100,000 feet. When the cruising portion is finished, the passenger capsule will detach from the balloon and return to the ground via para-wing. The journey will last less than 9 hours, but in that time passengers will be treated to a view of the Earth’s curvature as well as a brief period of weightlessness during the craft’s rapid descent. Passengers will also be able to live tweet or instagram their experiences via on-board wi-fi. “We want to give people the experience of seeing the Earth from space for hours and contemplating the curvature of the planet and all that comes with that,” says WVE chief executive Jane Poynter. WVE’s experience is significantly cheaper than a prospective trip on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, which will cost you between $200,000 and $250,000.

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