Pack your bags – space tourism is heating up yet again, even as regular tourism on Planet Earth gets back into gear with the turn of pandemic to endemic (fingers crossed). American tourism startup Space Perspective has just unveiled the interior of its Space Lounge, which is what eight passengers and a pilot will be sitting in when they’re lifted into the stratosphere.
The lounge looks cosy and comfortable, with reclining lounge chairs covered in natural wool that can be reconfigured according to guests’ needs. Muted purples and blues match views of the Earth’s curvature – contrasted against the inky blackness of space – streaming through massive windows, which the company says are the largest that have ever been flown into space.
Cocktails will be available from the lounge’s fully-stocked bar, plus and a bit of farm-to-table theatre with live herb plants that can be used in food and drinks served on the flight. There’s even wireless internet.
Companies like Space Perspective and World View have ditched the traditional multi-modular rocket system in favour of capsules hoisted by giant balloons for a number of reasons – chief of which is accessibility. Not only are space balloon flights generally cheaper, as you won’t have to toss multi-million-dollar rockets into the ocean with every launch. They’re a lot easier on the body too, as you won’t be hurtling into space at thousands of kilometres per hour – which means no space training required.
The trade-off is that balloons like Space Perspective’s Spaceship Neptune will never gather the velocity to break through the upper atmosphere and leave Earth behind. Instead, you cruise at a comfortable 30 kilometres above Earth – still plenty far enough to get a magnificent view of the planet.
In sum, this means that companies like Space Perspective are able to channel their resources into offering a space tourism experience that’s a lot comfier and more luxurious than, say, Blue Origin or SpaceX.
The cherry on the top is that Space Perspective promises a carbon-neutral, zero-emission journey, as the balloon rises and falls without external propulsion. The balloon’s parts are all made to be recycled or upcycled – even the bar. And every commercial flight will also be used as an opportunity to collect climate data.
Every trip begins from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, before the journey’s eventual conclusion in the ocean where guests (and the Space Balloon) are retrieved by ship. Like World View, commercial flights expect to commence in 2024 – with places already sold out for the first year.
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