In contrast to the recent developments of civilians in space—the billionaires’ rocket propelled, designer space suit outfitted race-there’s another method currently in development that would be easier on the body, allow more time to admire the view and cost less than the millions required to ride atop the rockets. The company Space Perspective is developing a balloon propelled spacecraft called Neptune One that will glide upward to 20 miles above the earth’s surface in a six hour journey-two hours each for the ascent, descent and time in space.
If this sounds like a dubious experience (can the balloon be strong enough for this?) the founders of the company seem to have the experience to guarantee the project. Husband and wife team Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum have racked up numerous achievements in the space innovation and exploration realm over the past 20 years. Among them: as founders of Paragon Space Developers Corporation, they perfected technologies for spacecraft including the International Space Station and advised Elon Musk on the demands of human spaceflight pre-SpaceX. They also led team StratEx (Stratospheric Exploration) that invented a self-contained spacesuit and recovery program that could allow human exploration of the stratosphere at 100,000 feet leading to Alan Eustace, a senior Google engineer, setting the world record for human spaceflight propelled by a SpaceBalloon at 136,000 feet. Most recently the couple was behind the balloon technology company World View Enterprises that developed communications and remote sensing.
Apart from the technology necessary for the ascent and descent at a gentle, non G force 12 miles per hour speed, the focus according to Poynter is the luxury and comfort of the Space Lounge capsule. “Our mission is to inspire Space Explorers to connect more closely with our planet and each other, and the environment in which they travel with us is central to this. Our Space Lounge is a world away from the white, utilitarian environments you find in other spacecraft. It offers travelers the opportunity to take phenomenal pictures, be educated via our expert pilot and interactive content, enjoy once-in-a-lifetime dining experiences and of course simply soak up the views,” she explains.
The lounge will be spacious, allowing the maximum of eight passengers area to freely stretch out and walk around without being cramped along with 360 degree windows measuring 1.84 feet wide and five feet high providing 450 mile views in each direction. The seats will be deep recliners that can be reconfigured for a dinner or special event if only two seats are required; customizable mood lighting and décor touches such as plants and herbs that will also be used in food and drink preparation are also part of the design.
If all procedures and tests go as planned, liftoff is planned for late 2024 at Space Coast Air and Spaceport, located adjacent to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida with splashdown in the ocean and passengers picked up by ship. Future plans include liftoffs from several points around the world to provide different vistas from space. But even though reservations are open now, the first availability is in 2025; the first year- 600 seats-is already sold out.