Don't have $250,000 to take a ride on Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic space plane? Well, a new company is going to be offering its own rides to 'near-space' soon, at the more affordable price of just $75,000.
The World View Experience promises a journey that will take you 30 kilometres up into the stratosphere, where you can enjoy 'majestic views of our planet' on a 'truly transformative human experience'. It's not a rocket-powered flight, though. Instead, you and the other passengers are taken on a gentle, piloted ride in the comfort of a sealed gondola, as a helium balloon lifts you high above the clouds. There, you can view the splendor of the world below you and take in a sight that only a select few have ever enjoyed first-hand — the curvature of the Earth.
"Seeing the Earth hanging in the ink-black void of space will help people realize our connection to our home planet and to the universe around us," Jane Poynter, the CEO of World View, said in a statement. "It is also our goal to open up a whole new realm for exercising human curiosity, scientific research and education."
The company hopes to have the real trips starting in 2016, but for now, this video gives an animated simulation of the ride:
Of course, the term 'near space' in all this is a bit of an exaggeration, since the ride only gets up to about a third of the height needed to actually reach space. However, unless you're determined to kill the buzz of the ride you just spent $75,000 for, it will definitely be close enough to at least look like you're close to space, and you'd have done it without needing any special training.
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When it comes down to it, even though it doesn't cost as much as other flights, $75,000 is still an awful lot of money to pay for a trip. So, there aren't going to be many of us that will be able to go (which is a shame, since the windows on the gondola would give every Star Wars fan a chance to act out the 'throne room' scenes from Return of the Jedi). However, with more ticket sales, and with competition like the Spanish company Zero2Infinity, the price should start to come down to something a little less astronomical, which will give more of us a chance to experience the ride.
(Image and video courtesy: World View Enterprises, Inc.)
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