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.
On September 12, Blue Origin New Shepard mission, NS-23, failed just over one minute into an uncrewed flight, forcing the escape system to eject its New Shepard upper stage capsule, which landed safely near the launch site. Several science experiments were being carried onboard with the original flight plan calling for the capsule to reach an altitude of a little more than 60 miles, which is internationally acknowledged as the edge of space. While the flight was uncrewed and the capsule made a successful soft landing after ejecting, the scenario could have been far more ill-favored if the flight had been crewed with tourists.
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.
There’s nothing an astronomer – whether professional or amateur – loves more than a clear dark night sky away from the city lights. Outside the glare and glow and cloud cover that most of us experience every day, the night sky comes alive with a life of its own.
Thousands upon countless thousands of glittering jewels – each individual star a pinprick of light set against the velvet-smooth blackness of the deeper void. The arching band of the Milky Way, itself host to billions more stars so far away that we can only see their combined light from our vantage point. The familiar constellations, proudly showing their true character, drawing the eye and the mind to the ancient tales spun about them.
There are few places left in the world to see the sky as our ancestors did; to gaze in wonder at the celestial dome and feel the weight of billions of years of cosmic history hanging above us. Thankfully the International Dark Sky Association is working to preserve what’s left of the true night sky, and they’ve rightfully marked northern Chile to preserve for posterity.