Suspended from a helium balloon the size of a football field, a button-shaped capsule with large bubble windows on all sides soars serenely skyward.
You are comfortably seated inside, in a seat that would seem appropriate in a Land Rover. Dress shoes planted on a floor that appears to be hardwood, you order a glass of champagne.
Why not? You are going to outer space. And you get it on the cheap – it’s not Blue Origin.
Instead, it’s World View, a new (considerably cheaper) space tourism venture that gives passengers a renewed perspective on the blue planet.
“World View exists to inspire, create and explore new perspectives for a radically improved future,” says CEO Ryan Hartman in a promotional video.
To do this, the company will try to provide customers with the “set effect” on a relatively long flight of 6 to 12 hours. Aboard the pressurized capsule, passengers will order refreshments and comfortably watch the rest of us parade far below.
The “big picture effect” and worldview
self-proclaimed “space philosopher” Frank White coined the term Overview Effect in a 1987 book focusing on the shift in consciousness astronauts often experience after viewing Earth from space.
It is safe to say that reverence characterizes the new condition of the subjects.
“I suddenly understood that this pretty, blue pea was the Earth. I lifted my thumb and closed one eye, and my thumb erased planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small” says Neil Armstrongthe first human to stand on the moon.
World View seeks to make the effect available without months of training, millions of thousands of dollars or a spacesuit. Instead, the zero-pressure balloon facilitates a “smooth” ascent and descent, and the curated capsule targets a similar to a first class passenger flight experience.
Price in context
Ticket price? $50,000, which eclipses the conjectural entry cost for a Blue Origin, SpaceX or Virgin Galactic flight of a few minutes. Each of these pre-sold tens of millions of dollars for a seat. Last month, SpaceX sent its first three customers to the International Space Station for $55 million each.
Certainly, World View will not fly as high as these other space tourism companies. The company claims its balloons can reach an altitude of “100,000+ feet”, or more than 30 kilometers. Blue Origin’s New Shepard Program catapults passengers ahead the 100 km Kármán line, the specified boundary for outer space. SpaceX climbs even higher – 575 km.
But statistics are not the goal of World View. Instead, the company is looking for an accessible and qualitative experience.
Takeoff from Giza, Great Wall, Grand Canyon
Hartman explained that the company’s passengers “could experience our Earth and [see] without borders, without race, and [see] something bigger than themselves.
“And,” he added, “most importantly, I think – [get] see the Earth as a living organism.
To this end, the company provides various majestic take-off locations. Because its balloons don’t need a rocket-proof launch pad, World View can stretch far beyond Houston’s Cape Canaveral junket.
Flights will take off from the Pyramids of Giza, the Amazon Rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef, the Grand Canyon and other global icons. Additionally, the company promises various other opportunities to explore the sites. In the Amazon, for example, you can spend five days exploring the largest rainforest in the world with local guides.
Is it safe?
Let’s say you’ve decided to travel through the upper atmosphere in a balloon. The device generates an obvious security problem by its very nature. “What happens if the balloon bursts or is punctured? ” the the site’s FAQ page request.
In zero-pressure balloons, the pressure inside the balloon is equal to the pressure outside the balloon. So, says the company,
In the event of a puncture, leak or hole, the balloon would not “pop” and cause a sudden free fall. Instead, the result would be very benign: the helium would slowly leak out of the balloon, and both the balloon and the capsule would eventually slowly lose altitude. Even if there was a big tear in the balloon, it would take several hours for the balloon to float slowly to the ground. In addition, since World View balloons are filled with helium, a safe and non-flammable gas, we eliminate the risk of explosion.
Apparently the team has made some changes since that “shaking” explosion in 2017 – echoes of 1937 Hindenburg disaster. Hydrogen is twice as light as helium, but this highly flammable gas has its drawbacks.
plastic sandwich film
The huge balloon is as thin as “sandwich wrap,” according to the company. It’s exciting to think about, but if you’ve ever seen the capsules of the old Mercury missionsyou know people have long launched themselves into the stratosphere in a craft that doesn’t seem capable of going there.
No matter how you slice it, space tourism is a cookie you have to take risks for. The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded Richard Branson Virgin Galactic’s sub-orbital program after its pilots deviated from their flight path and entered unauthorized airspace, potentially endangering other aircraft.
If World View is successful, you won’t have the opportunity to visit the edge of space more cheaply than you will inside its first-class accommodations. Launch of the first flights from the Grand Canyon and the Great Barrier Reef in 2024.