A Japanese company has put out the call for passengers who’d be willing to pay more than $175,000 for an hours-long ride in a balloon-borne capsule that will rise as high as 15 miles (25 kilometers).
Technically, that’s nowhere near the boundary of outer space, but it’s high enough to get an astronaut’s-eye view of the curving Earth beneath a black sky.
“It’s safe, economical and gentle for people,” the CEO of a startup called Iwaya Giken, Keisuke Iwaya, told reporters in Tokyo. “The idea is to make space tourism for everyone.”
Other companies are planning similar stratospheric tourist ventures. But if Iwaya’s venture sticks to its announced timeline and begins flying customers around the end of this year, it would be the first to get to market.
Mood lighting, swanky seats, plants, a bar … and a restroom with an out-of-this-world view: Those are the sorts of perks you’d expect on a luxury cruise, but the cruise that Space Perspective plans to offer with those amenities will take you 100,000 feet up, lofted by a balloon.
Space Perspective says more than 600 customers have put in their reservations at a price of $125,000 for trips that are due to begin in 2024. And to whet your appetite for the adventure, the company is offering an interactive 3-D visualization of the capsule that you can wander through virtually.
Noctilucent clouds are one of the atmosphere’s most ethereal natural wonders. They form high in the mesosphere, about 80 km (50 mi) above the Earth’s surface, and are rarely seen. In July, 2018, NASA launched a five-day balloon mission, called PMC (Polar Mesospheric Clouds) Turbo, to observe them and photograph them.
A college-age team of space and photography enthusiasts have created a fully reusable capsule that can travel autonomously to the edge of space using high altitude balloons. To date, their capsule, named PURSUIT has had four flights, reaching altitudes ranging from 24,000 to 36,500 meters (80,000 to 120,000 feet.) “We wanted to fly capsules to the edge of space and capture the most difficult imagery that other teams didn’t even bother trying,” said Project Soar team leader David Gonzales II. “Our capsules shoot high resolution stills and shoot HD video of their incredible journeys.”
Last fall, the team captured the stunning image above of a sunrise from space from about 25,000 meters above the Earth. “To our knowledge, Sunrise Soar II captured the highest resolution images of sunrise ever taken from the edge of space by a high altitude balloon flight,” Gonzales told Universe Today.
In images taken from over 36,000 meters, absent are the reddish sunrise colors that we see on Earth because of the atmosphere.
Their PURSUIT capsule cost about $500 to put together initially, but their total cost per flight is only $40.
The crew consists of twelve different students and recent graduates from various colleges. Gonzales said he formed Project Soar and put together the team as a hobby. The team hopes to do several more flights soon.
See more images and videos, and read detailed reports about the team’s adventures at their Project Soar website.