Another company offers hot air balloon rides to the edge of space, but only $50,000

(CNN) — What do you do for bragging rights when you’ve already visited the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef, the Serengeti and the Pyramids of Giza?

You will see them all again – but from the edge of space.

Stratospheric Balloon Company World Vision has just opened reservations to line up for epic five-day balloon journeys that promise to take travelers 100,000 feet above some of the most magnificent sights on the planet.

Want to check if you can see the Great Wall of China from space? The objective of World View is to be able to let passengers discover it with their own eyes.

The company’s first commercial flights are set to begin in early 2024 – with Grand Canyon National Park as the location for its first spaceport – and trips are priced at $50,000 per seat.

Pan-global ambition

The company claims in its press release that “The World View space tourism experience is the most affordable, longest and most accessible space experience on Earth.”

Based in Tuscon, Arizona, and led since 2019 by former Insitu CEO Ryan Hartman, World View has ambitious, pan-global plans.

After the opening in Arizona of its first spaceport at the Grand Canyon, its next targets are — in order of planned opening dates — the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Serengeti in Kenya, the Northern Lights in Norway, the Amazon in Brazil, the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt and, finally, the Great Wall of China in Mongolia.

These are the places World View calls the “Seven Wonders of the World, Stratospheric Edition”.

The idea is that the flights will take off from these high-end locations and lift eight passengers and two crew members up to 100,000 feet in altitude, about four times higher than a standard commercial aircraft flight, and nearly 23 miles into the stratosphere.

They’ll zoom up there in a zero-pressure balloon and pressurized space capsule, which will then gently float through the atmosphere, allowing guests to experience the curvature of the Earth and the awesome darkness of space.

Each trip aboard the craft will last six to 12 hours, during which time guests can enjoy the in-flight restaurant and bar and internet data connection, use the in-flight concierge, view view cameras on the Earth, star-view telescopes and viewing screens or just relax on the fully reclining seats.

It’s all part of what promises to be an immersive five-day experience where participants will be offered outings from spaceports to explore local wonders at ground level.

Hartman told CNN that could include “helicopter rides, hot air balloon rides, foodie experiences and many other excursions.”

Make the world a better place — but from space

It’s not just World View’s ambitions – or even its balloons – that are high. He also has some rather grandiose ideas about the impact of his space tourist escapades.

By bringing “as many people as possible to the edge of space”, the company’s stated hope is that “they will see a world without borders or species and come back determined to make the world a better place”.

Agreed. Well, the world is struggling badly enough and nothing else has worked out yet – so might as well try the stratospheric thing?

World View supported this mission by partnering with the non-profit Space For Humanity for its maiden flight.

Space for Humanity will select citizen astronauts through a review process, after which they will receive specialized training, primarily on how they will use their experiences in space to meet the challenges they face as leaders on Earth. The nonprofit will cover all expenses for citizen astronauts, which will be paid for through the organization’s fundraising efforts.

As with everyone else, paying attendees can now reserve their place in the commercial flight queue with an initial deposit of $500.

The great hot air balloon race

Space Perspective is a human spaceflight company with bold ambitions to take paying customers to the far reaches of space, for a hefty price. Tickets are now available for flights from 2024.

World View is not the only company to have participated in the balloon space race. Its main competitor is based in Florida perspective from spacewhich also hopes to start hot air balloon rides aboard its Neptune spacecraft in 2024 – although its price is considerably higher, at $125,000 per seat.

Space Perspective was founded in 2019 by two of World View’s co-founders, Taber MacCallum and Jane Poynter.

You see, this isn’t the first time World View has taken part in the space rodeo. In 2014, he was also pursuing the dream of the space balloon with his Traveler craftsmanship, even though tickets at the time were $75,000 – not that the project came to fruition.

Hartman, CEO of World View for two years, told CNN Travel that affordability and accessibility are central to their 2021 offering. “$50,000 is still a lot of money. But it’s our starting point. And to help customers realize their dream of participating in space tourism, we offer flexible financing.”

Global Marketing Director Phil Wocken explains a bit more about how they came to this award. “We think it’s critical to keep the cost low enough to be as affordable to as many people as possible. Financing options just don’t exist in the $75,000-$125,000 range.

“We also chose helium instead of hydrogen as the lift gas, which is 10 times more expensive than hydrogen, but we felt this was a significant sacrifice as we prioritize the safety of our flights.

Hydrogen has a worse safety record – the famous Hindenburg airship was powered by it – but helium is also a non-renewable resource needed for critical medical applications. Its competitor Space Perspective has chosen to switch to hydrogen.

According to Wocken, “Because we have already developed much of the technology for our flights based on years of experience, and we are well funded, we don’t need as much money to new research and development.”

There have been plenty of missions to the far reaches of space this year, with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic all striving for weightlessness.

With World View throwing its hat into the ring once again, the stratosphere threatens to get a little busy.