A puffy object floating above West Palm Beach like an ethereal jellyfish on Wednesday came from a company hoping to take tourists in balloons to space.
Tucson-based World View said in a statement that the ball, which can grow to the size of a football field, was spotted over South Florida and was part of routine testing for its Stratolite program.
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“The flight is under operational control from World View headquarters. We expect the tests to last a few days,” the statement said.
World View balloons float on helium up to 100,000 feet above Earth and have been used to capture high resolution images of the planet.
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But its website also includes information on space tourism from 2024 where travelers slowly ascend for two hours to reach an altitude where they can see the curvature of the Earth and stars against the darkness of space.
The cost of a six- to 12-hour trip, with in-flight catering, starts at $50,000, according to the website.
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Robert Molleda, meteorologist in charge of coordinating warnings at the National Weather Service in Miami, immediately suspected the space balloon when shown a blurry image of the object.
He said the weather balloons, which are launched twice daily from the Miami office, typically land in the Everglades or the Atlantic Ocean depending on wind direction. Although weather balloons also rise to 100,000 feet, they do not expand to the size of a football stadium and are only designed to carry a small sensor to measure temperature, humidity, pressure and temperature. wind direction.
“It’s very rare to get a call about a ball,” Molleda said. “They’re only in the air for 45 to 60 minutes.”
The weather balloons, which are filled with hydrogen, expand as they rise through the atmosphere before bursting and slowly drifting back to Earth.
World View balloons stayed in the air for 45 days.