Tourism Tuesday - Would You Ride a Balloon to the Edge of Space?
For this week’s Tourism Tuesday post, I’ll be writing about one of the more unique space tourism companies, World View Enterprises. Beyond their really cool, futuristic sounding name, there is a crazy ride to the stratosphere.
When you were a kid, did you ever wonder how many balloons it would take to actually lift you into the sky? Well this company is hoping you’re still interested in that.
What is World View Enterprises doing?
World View is taking a different approach to the space tourism game. Instead of using airplanes and rockets, they are using one big balloon to bring tourists high up into the stratosphere. Because they are using balloons, they aren't going as high as other tourism companies like Virgin Galactic. World View will bring you up to an altitude of 100,000 feet (19 miles), while Virgin Galactic brings you to about 265,000 feet (50 miles). At 100,000 feet you don’t experience that zero-g feeling, but the you do get to spend two full hours here and soak in this ridiculous view.
How much does this experience cost? The price for riding a balloon to the edge of space is a cool $75,000.
How are they doing it?
Basically they have a capsule attached to a special type of parachute (a “parawing”) which is attached to a large helium-filled balloon. Once the balloon is fully filled with helium, the capsule is released from a launch pad and the six tourists and two crew-members begin their gentle lift-off. As the balloon ascends, the helium inside it expands and balloon's volume increases. The balloon is designed to stop expanding at its peak altitude of 100,000 feet. It takes about two hours to reach this altitude and once it is there it floats for another two hours as the tourists inside admire the view of the Earth outside the capsule’s windows.
To get back down to the ground, the pilot will vent off helium out of the balloon and the capsule will gently descend. At the halfway point (50,000 feet), the pilot detaches the balloon and then glides the capsule down to the landing site using the parawing. The entire flight takes about five to six hours.
What would you choose?
What do you think is a better deal? For $250,000 you can get yourself six minutes of weightlessness, an incredible view, and “I’ve actually been to space” bragging rights. Or, for $75,000 you can get two full hours of an incredible space-like view, but you don’t experience weightlessness and you can’t say you’ve been to space.
Personally, I’m torn because if I’m dishing out this kind of money, I would want the experience to last more than a few minutes. With World View, you actually get time to take in what is happening. But then again, you don’t get to say you’ve ridden a rocket to space.
What would you choose? Let me know on twitter @EmCalSpaceGal