If you’ve ever dreamed of snapping a selfie, sipping a cocktail or even getting hitched while soaring through Earth’s stratosphere, you might be in luck. This week, a new company, Space Perspective announced plans to test out its commercial spaceship, “Spaceship Neptune,” beginning in early 2021. The company hopes to begin taking passengers into space in the next three years or so, reports William Hardwood for CBS News.
The ship, an enormous hydrogen-filled balloon with a small pressurized cabin hanging underneath, will carry research payloads, a pilot and up to eight paying civilian passengers into the stratosphere at a time, according to a statement.
The 650-foot-tall balloon will lift off from leased facilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and gently rise to the stratosphere, about 19 miles above Earth’s surface—not technically outer space, but high enough to see the curvature of the Earth and the darkness of space stretching out beyond.
“It’s so gentle,” Jane Poynter, co-chief executive of Space Perspective, tells Kenneth Chang of the New York Times. “It’s much less dynamic than a rocket-based flight. I know that there’s a lot of people that either cannot or don’t want to go on a rocket, but they really want to go to space”.
The entire journey will take about six hours, the company estimates. The balloon craft will rise at about 12 miles per hour, cruise in the stratosphere for about two hours, then make its slow descent. It will float in the direction of that day’s winds, and splash down in either the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, where it will be fished out by a recovery boat, reports Mike Wall for Space.com.
Read more: smithsonian mag