With the growing interest in space tourism we now have another option that could be ready within a few years. Another form of space tourism is coming that uses a giant helium balloon and would offer stunning views of the horizon and dark of space. This is the promise of a Spanish company called Zero 2 Infinity.
The designer tested the launch techniques on May 29th using a smaller version of their helium balloon along with its passenger pod. The test had to be stopped when wind gusts damaged the balloon's envelope. They are scheduled to repeat this test "soon" according to the video description.
Zero 2 Infinity is calling the balloon "bloon" and it would carry two pilots and four passengers in its pressurized pod as high as 22 miles (36 kilometers). It is still considered well below the 62-mile (100-kilometer) altitude that is considered the true edge of space but still provides quite a view of the Earth's curved horizon, the black of space and the thin atmosphere.
They have tested their half-size version called Microbloon 2.0. In their past tests they have reached as high as 20 miles (33 kilometers) in June 2010 and 15 miles (24 kilometers) in October 2010.
Zero 2 Infinity claims that their final craft will offer travelers up to 25 seconds of zero-gravity along with lunar gravity and Martian gravity. No word on how this is achieved as of yet, but most likely through a form of free-fall. The bloon uses a parachute-style landing system and inflatable cushions beneath the pod.
According to the Zero 2 Infinity website they are looking to offer commercial flights sometime between 2013 and 2015 but does not mention the cost.
The Tech-Stew Take Home
We get another entry into the growing area of space tourism. This is certainly good to have competition in a market that is relatively small. Since this project is deep into the testing phase it should almost certainly see the light of day. It is a much less risky option than saying jumping to Earth from the edge of space like the Austrian skydiver is attempting to do and has already achieved from 13 miles above the Earth. In addition, Zero 2 Infinity's prices may end up being cheaper than those offered by Virgin Galactic. Virgin Galactic will offer suborbital rides to the edge of space at 62 miles high. If people are more concerned with the view rather than the statistic, this may prove the better option.
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