People all over the Unites States have a hot air balloon ride on their bucket lists. Milestone birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and graduations often see enthusiastic folks hopping into a wicker basket with champagne to float high above the earth while watching stunning sunsets, cuddling up to their loved ones and maybe even hoping the balloon doesn’t go crashing to the ground. The future, apparently, is going to offer up something most of us have never likely thought about-being able to see space by hot air balloon. Forget about sunsets and champagne. How about moonsets and comets?
That’s right. In about three years from now, for just $75,000, you’ll be able to fly 19 miles or 64 miles into the cosmos in a hot air powered capsule to explore space with a group of people, and hopefully a highly trained astronaut armed with sedatives and whiskey.
But, all kidding aside, World View Enterprises, the company who wants to make this Jetsons-esque dream a reality, is very blasé about the whole “ohmygodIwoulddie” feeling some members of the general public get when they contemplate going up in a tiny capsule to explore the cosmos. Jane Poynter, who heads up the ambitious enterprise, says it’s super safe to go hurtling into space with only a thin layer of (metal? Glass? Polymers of some kind? It’s not going to be wicker, hopefully) between you and getting sucked into a black hole. “There are balloons this size that have already flown up many, many times for decades,” she says “From a technical point of view this is incredibly doable, low risk.”
Mmmm hmmm. Ok.
Scott Pace, a former NASA employee, says it will be “an interesting market test” to see if people will take the space bait. “It is still embryonic,” he says of the plan. “A few people have paid tens of millions of dollars to fly to the International Space Station and others have paid to fly in high altitude jets. But, how many people will pay for near space experiences?”
“Near space experience?” Doesn’t that sound like a terribly familiar phrase? Where have we heard it before? Fill in the blank: “near______ experience.” Is space the first thing that comes to mind?
Would it be worth it to spend the $75k per person and to overcome the fear of being so far away from Earth that you’d be able to view its curve from space? Would you be interested in spending four hours up in the air with seven other people in a rather tiny capsule that looks like a delicate, yet futuristic, egg?
Surely there will be plenty of rich weirdos who would take the plunge, er, leap, into the ether to enjoy sunsets, champagne and comets from many miles above our lovely planet, but will it appeal to the common person? Will the average Joe be ready to hop on a hot air balloon to space? Or will most folks prefer to stay as provincial as possible when it comes to space exploration? If you’re interested in this high tech trip, you’ve got three years to save up. After all, what could possibly go wrong?
An editorial by: Rebecca Savastio