Trips to the Atmosphere

Instead of rocket-powered suborbital flights like of Virgin Galactic, could high-altitude ballooning become the more capable way of letting paying tourists experience space or at least something thrillingly close to it?

Ballooning is already tried and tested technology “It’s the origin of space travel,” stated Annelie Schoenmaker, external relations and legal officer for Zero2infinity, a Spanish company that plans to launch passengers to near space using balloons known as “Bloons” for $124,000 per trip.

Flights using helium-filled balloons began in the early 1930s. “For me this time was what I call the first space race, as it was the first time we went into the stratosphere,” explains Dr Jonathan Clark, an associate professor in neurology and space medicine, who has advised on both Red Bull Stratos and StratEx — the project that saw Google executive Alan Eustace make a record-breaking space dive, assisted by ballooning company Worldview Enterprises, reported cnn.com.

After a gentle lift-off, the capsule ascends for about one-and-a-half to two hours to an altitude of just over 100,000 feet, almost twenty miles high, atop 99% of the Earth’s atmosphere. The helium-filled balloon is lighter than air and, like ice floating on water, it literally floats above our planet’s atmosphere. Just as ice doesn’t fly out of a glass of water, it is impossible for the World View capsule to fly off into space. During the ascent, the helium in the balloon expands and decreases in density, lifting the capsule aloft until the envelope is fully inflated. Once the helium has expanded to completely fill the balloon, it stops ascending, reaching its target altitude, stated worldviewexperience.com