Inside genius plan to take tourists to space in BALLOONS

World News

THERE is an alternative version of space tourism for people unwilling to shell out millions for a spot on a rocket.

For just $500 up front, you can reserve a seat on a balloon headed for the upper atmosphere with World View, a brand redefining the mission, cost and methods of space tourism.

"We exist to inspire and create and explore new perspectives for a radically improved future," World View CEO Ryan Hartman told The Sun in an exclusive interview.

Hovering at over 100,000 feet in a helium-powered balloon, World View patrons will see the Earth and the stars of deep space with a view unobstructed by the atmosphere.

Post-flight, actor and World View Chief Earth Advocate Adrian Grenier will be there in the ethereal moments after touchdown – "I get to welcome people back to Earth, and allow them to rediscover their relationship with the planet," Grenier said while on the Today Show.

World View is undoubtedly the most cost efficient space tourism experience – one of the eight tourist seats on board can be had for just $50,000.

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World View's space tourism experience begins with a transcendental experience on Earth before going off-world.

Travelers will explore the terrain and history of locations for five days before taking off from a nearby World View space port.

Hartman said the company wants to "to truly immerse somebody in the in the beauty of an area, the fragility of an area," before seeing it from above.

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The World View team decided to uniquely emphasize the Earth-bound experience in response to an astronaut who was initially hardened and unaffected by reaching orbit.

"And then she flew over Florida where she was living at the time," Hartman said. "And that's when it hit her."

A few days in the Grand Canyon, viewing the Northern Lights in Norway or visiting the Giza Pyramids in Egypt are all options for precursors to launch.

"The Seven Wonders of the World: stratospheric edition," Hartman quipped. "It was all about creating an opportunity for people to go to places, immerse themselves, understand the area so that ultimately they can recognize it from above and trigger a peak experience for them."

Lift off

SpaceX and Blue Origin commercial space missions have paying customers strapped into rockets, climbing dozens of miles to space at breakneck speeds – while much of the rocket's mechanical work is automated, danger is everywhere.

The Challenger and The Columbia space shuttles exploded during launch and reentry – seven people were killed in each disaster.

World View's space adventure claims to reduce the intensity, and emphasizes the peace and tranquility.

Patrons inside the World View Explorer capsule are slowly lifted by a helium-filled balloon during the two hour ascent to apogee.

Technically, the balloon does not travel to space, tourists aboard will not be considered astronauts nor will they experience zero gravity – World View expeditions travel about 20 miles above the surface, whereas space "begins" between 50 and 60 miles from the surface.

Even so, 99% of the Earth's atmosphere will be below the capsule at its highest point, according to the company.

Not another space tourism company

In some circles, space tourism has been condemned as a wasteful enterprise enjoyed only by the wealthy.

After all, a ticket on a Blue Origin flight comes with a $28million dollar price tag and a weeklong excursion to the International Space Station will run you $55million – it's not for everyone.

A private surveying company analyzed the market for Richard Branson's space company Virgin Galactic and found there are 2.4million people who can reasonably afford their $250,000 price tag – a still hefty price tag but a sizable market.

World View's comparatively modest price of $50,000 allows for a much larger portion of the world to see the world from on-high.

"Add up all those people that experience that space tourism," Hartman said "And all of a sudden create a significant critical mass," of people who've seen the Earth from above, and consequently seek to preserve it for the better.

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World View has launched hundreds of test flights, five of which with full payloads representative of a crew and tourists – they hope to go fully operational by 2024.

"Space tourism and space exploration is the greatest story mankind has ever told," Hartman said. "We create an opportunity for people to see the Earth as something bigger than themselves."

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