Newest Space Tourism Venture To Dangle Travelers From A Helium Balloon

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.

Space Shuttle Discovery comes home — and to a museum near you

Space shuttle Discovery’s last flight was yesterday, ending an era in American space flight. The vehicle’s retirement is paving the way for new developments in the space frontier, however, and with the fleet now out of commission, NASA can concentrate on International Space Station missions and development of the next generation of American space vehicles.

As for the current fleet, select spacecraft will be retired to museums around the planet, including the Smithsonian in Washington DC and any number of air and space museums scattered across the nation. According to yesterday morning’s Morning Edition on NPR, there is actually a bit of competition for the available shuttles, with several museums building massive new facilities and plans before even being promised the equipment.

Either way, the pollination of the craft throughout the nation means that tourists will soon have a new site to behold on their air and space vacations. We’re already looking forward to the new round of spacecraft designs.