You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Space tourism: less expensive options coming your way...

11/04/2014 John O'Ceallaigh
World View ?ights © Provided by Sydney Morning Herald World View ?ights

Could recreational space travel become a commonplace reality within our lifetime? Recent innovations could make it so. Following delays, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic “spaceline” is expected to launch by the end of this year; its first commercial passengers will be hurtled into space for $US250,000 (about $A265,683).

A less publicised and relatively inexpensive alternative is due to begin operations in 2016. That is when the Arizona-based World View Enterprises expects to launch the first World View flights, billed by the company as a “transformative space travel experience”. Forgoing the thrust and distance provided by rockets, the service will instead rely on an immense, high-altitude balloon to lift a pressurised capsule some 100,000ft (30.48m).

From that height, almost 20 miles (32.18km) above the planet’s surface, a select group of six passengers and two crew members will be able to admire the curvature of the Earth and the infinity of space beyond it. Should members of this privileged group lack the concentration simply to focus on the spectacular sight before them, they can share their thoughts with friends below – the capsule will be equipped with internet access, so real-time social media updates will be possible.

The concept seems worryingly simple, but similar means were used to lift the skydiver Felix Baumgartner to a height of 128,100ft (39.04m) in 2012. The World View team is confident in the nascent technology and has an astronaut, Mark Kelly, as its director of flight crew operations. Nasa’s former head of science, Dr Alan Stern, is its chief scientist. Under their guidance World View has been developed to include an integrated life-support system that will protect against unlikely leaks in the capsule; the vehicle can be fully operated by ground crew if necessary; and there is no risk of the vessel’s simply disappearing into space. Like ice floating on water, it is designed to skate above the Earth’s atmosphere without detaching from it.

The entire flight experience will last five to six hours, with passengers floating at peak altitude for about two hours before beginning their descent. The capsule’s “Parawing” will enable it to glide gently downwards, and passengers and crew should expect to land within a 300-mile (482.8-km) radius of the take-off point.

Introductory tickets will cost from $US75,000 (about $A79,704) but, should the service prove popular, expect prices to drop as flight frequency increases and competitors emerge to provide similar services. For intrepid travellers eager to explore different environments, a new frontier may be about to open up.

The Telegraph, London

Due to launch in 2016, World View Fights will take passengers on a recreational trip into space. © Due to launch in 2016, World View Fights will take passengers on a recreational trip into space.
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon