Space Exploration

Up, Up and Away in a Balloon to the Stratosphere

Space Perspective will start testing flights to the edge of space next year.

NBC Universal, Inc.

If you’ve ever dreamed of flying to the stratosphere, hold tight.

A company is hoping to start testing balloon flights to the edge of space in early 2023. Space Perspective has already sold 1,000 tickets to take travelers on the six-hour journey.

Seeing Earth from that height could be a paradigm shift, as it has been for astronauts looking down from space, the company says. The experience would be unique though not cheap. Each seat costs $125,000.

“The stratosphere, most of the astronauts just go through it in a rocket ship or coming back down and reentry,” says founding board member and Google’s former senior vice president of knowledge, Alan Eustace.

This is a chance to open up an extremely beautiful spot about the Earth to more people, he said.

The stratosphere is the second layer of atmosphere, between the troposphere, where commercial airlines fly, and the mesosphere and between about 6.2 miles and 31 miles above the Earth. It is where the ozone layer is.

Eustace, who had dreamed of sky diving as a boy, is the world record holder for the highest altitude skydive at 135,890 feet. He and his team created a space suit to sky dive in. 

“I thought there was a different approach to the stratosphere that would not just allow you to sky dive from the stratosphere but would allow you to do anything from the stratosphere,” he said. “It would allow you to do sky dives, it would allow you to do high-altitude sail planes, hang gliding, you name it. And the key was to build something more akin to scuba diving.”

Eustace said that these trips would not be via rockets, they would offer a new way to see the Earth.

“This is a gentle beautiful way to be able to get a perspective on the Earth,” he said.

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