Newest Space Tourism Venture To Dangle Travelers From A Helium Balloon

Helium Balloon Space Tourism Flight
Photo: World View Enterprises, Inc

Another day, another space tourism venture announced-but this one caught our attention for being a little different from most. Rather than shooting travelers up in rockets, an American company says it’s planning to dangle space tourists in a capsule attached to a helium balloon.

World View Enterprises will use a helium balloon to slowly lift travelers up to the edge of space as they sit in a luxurious space capsule. After the ride is over, the capsule will detach from the helium balloon and float back down to Earth with the aid of a parachute. While that all sounds a little precarious, the company says balloons like this have been sent into space for decades and the whole process is actually quite low-risk.The helium balloon rides will take travelers up about 20 miles into the sky. Although that’s not technically space, which is around 60 miles up, travelers will still be in for a nice view that includes being able to see the curvature of the earth.

And if space travel has mostly sounded like the domain of the super rich so far, the good news is that the balloon space trip will be somewhat more affordable than the other options that have been proposed. A two-hour journey will set you back about $75,000, which is a fair deal cheaper than Virgin Galactic’s space flights that cost a quarter of a million dollars. Tickets for the World View space flights are expected to go on sale in a few months.

Explorer attempts solo balloon flight over North Pole

Explorer Jean-Louis Etienne already has two solo expeditions of the North Pole under his belt. First was his 63 day hike by foot back in 1986. Then in 2002, Etienne drifted alone on the Artic Sea for four months in a specially-designed research pod. Now the determined explorer is planning the third part of his solo Artic exploration “trilogy,” with plans to pilot a helium-air balloon back over the Artic for a 15-20 day adventure.

Using a ship based on the Breitling Orbiter, the first balloon successfully piloted around the world in 1999, Etienne plans to spend his trip raising awareness of the shrinking of the world’s polar ice caps. Along the way the voyager will also be taking a number of scientific measurements, including CO2 levels and readings of the earth’s magnetic field. This is not Etienne’s first attempt to balloon his way across the Arctic. His first try in 2008 ended disastrously when his ship was smashed by high winds.

[UPDATE] Etienne’s journey kicked off earlier this morning, launching from a remote island called Spitzbergen off the Northern Coast of Norway. Let’s wish him luck in his journey.