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Space Entertainment

Company To Balloon Tourists To the Edge of Space For $75,000 104

Posted by timothy
from the why-can't-they-balloon-them-all? dept.
astroengine writes "If the thought of a rocket ride to space — or the $250,000 price tag to get there — leaves you feeling queasy, an Arizona firm thinks it has a gentler, less expensive alternative. World View, an offshoot of privately owned Paragon Space Development Corp., is developing a balloon-launched, near-space (30 kilometers) ride for $75,000 — less than one-third the current cost to fly on Virgin Galactic's suborbital SpaceShipTwo. "It really is very gentle. You can be up at altitude for hours, for days for research if you need to be... I think we have the opportunity to give a really, really incredible experience to people — and for a lot less than most of what's out on the market right now," project co-founder and Paragon president Jane Poynter told Discovery News."
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Company To Balloon Tourists To the Edge of Space For $75,000

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  • 30Km isn't space (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rossdee (243626) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @09:37AM (#45199931)

    30Km isn't space, its only about 1/3 of the way there
    I think the definition of space starts at about 100Km
    you certainly couldnt achieve orbit at 30Km, you'd burn up

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by TWX (665546)
      Indeed. If I have money to burn, I wouldn't burn it by getting part-of-the-way to space. That's the space-equivalent of going out to meet the prettiest gal and take her home, but ending up at the strip club and leaving with frustration.
      • hey come on this is slashdot, no one here knows a girl analogy, you need a car one
        It would be like sitting in a Lamborghini Reventon at a car show, not able to turn it on or even push any buttons.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @10:31AM (#45200441)

          hey come on this is slashdot, no one here knows a girl analogy, you need a car one
          It would be like sitting in a Lamborghini Reventon at a car show, not able to turn it on or even push any buttons.

          It would be like paying $75,000 to sit 30% closer to the Lamborghini than everyone else. You still wouldn't be getting into the car.

          • It would be like paying $75,000 to sit 30% closer to the Lamborghini than everyone else.

            Wrong.

            At 30km altitude, you are much more than 30% closer to space than everyone else.

            Even if everyone were at the summit of Mt. Everest, which is at 8.8km, you would still be 3.4 times (240%) higher up than they are.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        30km looks cool as hell.. or heaven.

        that's why. or wait in line for more expensive, shorter rides.

        • by TWX (665546)

          30km looks cool as hell.. or heaven.

          Not for that kind of money...

        • But they might be able to get closer if they used 2 balloons, in an unusual way, with an unusual gondola design. The first balloon they fill with helium at the ground, and it takes you pretty high, well above most of the oxygen in the atmosphere. The gondola has a section full of hydrogen-storage tanks. At altitude, the second balloon is deployed and starts filling with hydrogen from those tanks. The first balloon's helium can be pumped into those same tanks, as each is emptied of hydrogen. The first b
          • by Dr. Zim (21278)

            I worked on commercial blimps (Bud One, Airship Shamu, MetLife) for several years and you're not the first person to think about re-compressing helium. The equipment needed to compress helium back into a tank would add more weight than practical.

          • by FlopEJoe (784551)
            Wait a minute! Suppose two swallows carried it together? Carrying it on a line?
      • I fail to see the increased value of higher ascent. I believe that the view difference would be indiscernible, except perhaps an improvement from the nearer view. The engineering difference between vehicles informs me that the more comfortable, low-G approach would open up the possibilities for some rather luxurious amenities for the cargo.
        Similarly, I think I'd prefer a hang-glider descent from Terrapin Point to a barrel ride over the Falls. [wikipedia.org]

        • by Immerman (2627577)

          Being in space typically inspires two images: freefall, and a view of the planet as a single sphere over which you're rapidly passing

          No balloon is going to give you a sustained freefall experience, and the view won't begin to compare - at 30km the view is pretty dramatic, but you're still seeing a lot less than half the globe at a time - for scale if the earth were the size of a basketball (9 inches), then your 30km balloon is just under 3/64 of an inch from the surface. And since you're standing still in

          • I guess I am atypical, or at the least I am not you. When I think of "Space", I think black, silent, void. It is a location rather an event. The freefall thing is an artifact of motion, or some Newtonian thing, and the view difference is merely perspective.
            I enjoy G-forces as much as the next guy, but probably wouldn't spend that much on roller coasters. When I was a youngster, I reckon I, too would have chosen a ride in the X-15 over a cruise in a balloon. [wikipedia.org]
            The motion deal might be tres cool, but a nearer, l

            • by Immerman (2627577)

              Huh. okay, may I suggest you completely black out a basement somewhere and go visit "space" much more cheaply then? Depending on your location earplugs might also help.

              Freefall is not an artifact of motion - it's the natural state of all things not mechanically connected to a much stronger gravity source, aka not on a planet(oid). If you are in space (as a physical location), you are either in freefall, or being subjected to non-uniform acceleration (rockets, rotation, etc)

              As for perspective - detail wou

              • Okay, may I suggest you completely geek out in your nerdliness and go visit your natural state of freefall off a cliff or "something" much more cheaply then? [wikipedia.org]
                Depending on your orientation a buttplug might also help.

    • by czert (3156611)
      100 km is kind of an arbitrary number. I have a better definition, though: if you can get there in a baloon, it's not space.
      • I have a better definition: if somebody can hear you scream, it's not space.

      • Re:30Km isn't space (Score:5, Informative)

        by camperdave (969942) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @10:50AM (#45200665) Journal
        100km isn't exactly arbitrary [wikipedia.org]. It is the altitude where, in order for an aircraft to generate sufficient lift, it would have to be moving at orbital velocity.
        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          Well then it's not space. Because in space you shouldn't be able to generate surface lift.
          • ... in space you shouldn't be able to generate surface lift.

            Why not? Space is not a perfect vacuum. Even deep in the intergalactic void there are hydrogen atoms and a gravitational field. So, with a large enough wing, moving at a large enough velocity you can still generate lift.

      • While camperdave, below, has already pointed out that the 100km Karman Line isn't as arbitrary as you might think, I have to agree with you on the second part of your post. I've, also, always felt that, by definition, if a balloon is capable of getting you to a place then that place must still be considered to be in the atmosphere (and, thus, NOT in space).

    • It's the edge of space, so I can see them using marketing that touts the ride is "so exciting, you only need the edge."

    • by dj245 (732906)

      30Km isn't space, its only about 1/3 of the way there I think the definition of space starts at about 100Km you certainly couldnt achieve orbit at 30Km, you'd burn up

      Here are some photos from approximately 30km up- [natrium42.com]. The curvature of the earth is evident, and the sky is pretty black at that height. It might still be inside the atmosphere, but it is outside most of the atmosphere. The air pressure at 30km is less than 3% of sea level. Good enough for everyone? No. But it is good enough for a lot of people, and at a far lower price.

      • You can book a flight in a MiG-31 to 28km up for a third of the stated price. The stay at the altitude is way shorter, though.

        • by 0123456 (636235)

          You can book a flight in a MiG-31 to 28km up for a third of the stated price. The stay at the altitude is way shorter, though.

          Seems kind of like the difference between a Mach-2 flight in a jet fighter and Concorde; in one case you're strapped in an ejection seat and wearing a pressure suit for ten minutes until it runs out of fuel, in the other you were free to walk around for two hours, eating caviar, and drinking champagne.

          • Well, duh, if you choose MiG-31, it will be a Mach-2 flight in a jet fighter. And, to be honest, I'd rather try that out than a Concorde flight. Besides, have you ever been inside a Concorde? The aisle is very narrow and everything is sort of cramped. It kind of actually feels worse than a cattle class A320. Not much walking around there.

    • Voyager 1 isn't in space yet.

    • Wrong. You could orbit with a lower speed vector based on buoyancy instead of relying on pure speed and thrust. So basically counteract gravity by simply floating and go a lot less than 17,000 MPH because of it.
  • ... but there's a certain economic gravity to the weightless experience.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      ... but there's a certain economic gravity to the weightless experience.

      There would be no weightless experience up there. The gravity would be the same. Perhaps if you fell out of the balloon you might "feel" weightless while you fell, and perhaps after you hit the ground too.

      Or were you just being clever with words? ;)

      • by Russ1642 (1087959)

        Being weightless is the primary reason people want to go into space. Taking a balloon up there will give you an ok view, not quite as grand as being in a low orbit, but the normal gravity will turn people off.

  • And if so, do they provide the parachute????

  • If this was yet another short-sighted commercialisation of space for the new generation of Reaganite aristocrats, it might bother me. But 30 km is barely space. Anyway, it's just another one of those companies where for nothing but ideological reasons public talent is spun off into a private corporation so a bunch of leeches can skim money off mostly government contracts.

  • by Calinous (985536) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @09:58AM (#45200139)

    This is not a couple of hours suborbital flight, this would probably take most of one day (or maybe more). And while it might be nice, it isn't space

  • It's only $2.50 per meter. (I assume it's free on the way down.) or $1.25 per meter (counting both ways).

  • I've always wondered why, if we can send balloons to the upper reaches of our atmosphere why we don't use ballooning as a 1st stage launch platform for reaching space? Granted, you'll need big balloons to life satellites or people, but surely getting stuff even 1/3rd or half way there by gentle gas lift balloon would be cheaper, easier, safer and more environmentally friendly way of launching into space. For launching people it's got to be a far less physically stressful way than strapping them to a giant
    • And I'm curious if this idea was ever researched and what were be the reasons for rejecting it?

    • by TempeNerd (410268)

      This group has been toying with the idea for ages.

      http://www.jpaerospace.com/ [jpaerospace.com]

      I think it is still their plan.

    • Because the government contractors like money. They feed on it. MONEYZ! OM NOM NOM! And rockets of course basically run on money. They'd have to fire rocket scientists and hire a lot less balloon scientists and then oh no, people would be sad and lose their jobs. Wah wah wah, AOL dial up salesmen lost their jobs too. Deal with it.
    • by camperdave (969942) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @11:52AM (#45201533) Journal

      I've always wondered why, if we can send balloons to the upper reaches of our atmosphere why we don't use ballooning as a 1st stage launch platform for reaching space?

      This balloon [redbullstratos.com] lifted a 3000 pound capsule. To do that required the balloon to be 55 storeys tall and have a surface area of 40 acres. A loaded SpaceX Dragon capsule weighs over eight tons, so you're going to need a balloon at least five times as large.

      For practical purposes, however, reaching space means getting into orbit. Getting into orbit isn't about the altitude. It is about the velocity. The ISS orbits at approximately Mach 17. Earth's escape velocity (to reach the Moon, and other planets) is about Mach 37. Top speed for a balloon is Mach 0.4 on a generous day. In other words, not much help.

      For sounding rockets, and small suborbital payloads, balloons might work. However, beyond that, balloons are quite impractical.

      • Relevant XKCD [xkcd.com] for the more visually-oriented
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      apparently the first few klicks isn't that much of a thing compared to the trouble.

      fwiw usa has launched an icbm dropped from an airplane. so that's not the problem.

  • Just hope you don't get hit by one of those rockets on its way up, then you'll wish you had the extra $175k
  • 1/2 the fun.

  • Let than one third of the price of Virgin Galactic for less than one third the distance to space. The math seems to work out.

  • I remember over a decade ago in school learning that it takes X amount of energy to escape Earth and go into orbit and it takes an escape velocity of like 1000MPH to do it. Anything else would allegedly crash. Obviously if your velocity is 0.0001 miles per hour, and you're going up, and you keep doing it, you're leaving Earth eventually so that pretend law of physics was bullshit then and it's bullshit now. My teacher didn't see it that way of course.

    Now they went and proved my point by simply floating
    • by schnell (163007)

      I think that's a pretty common misunderstanding of "escape velocity" but it's a little scary that a teacher would misunderstand it. Escape velocity isn't a speed that you have to travel constantly - you are correct that you could fly steadily away from the Earth at 1 mph and eventually escape the gravity well. My understanding was that escape velocity [wikipedia.org] is meant to represent the "initial speed required to go from an initial point in a gravitational potential field to infinity with a residual velocity of zero,

    • It made me cringe reading this. Both you and your teacher haven't the foggiest idea what escape velocity is, let alone orbital mechanics. I would hazard a guess and say you attended public schools in the U.S., and you were born after 1980?

      As for your last point, most of the energy required for achieving orbit goes into accelerating to orbital speed (~17,500 mph). Getting out of the atmosphere is relatively easy. If you had a magic balloon that took you straight up to an altitude of 1,000 miles, you would ju

    • by IdeaMan (216340)

      Go play Kerbal Space Program [kerbalspaceprogram.com]. It's fun and (sshh don't tell anyone:) educational. You will learn about escape velocity, Isp, Periapsis, Apoapsis, Orbital intercepts, aerobraking, etc. Oh and don't kill too many Kerbals while you're at it :)

  • While the difference between $75K and $250K looks significant to many people, it actually isn't.
    If you have $75G to waste on a vacation trip, then chances are you have $250G to waste also.
    It's just simple statistics given that the bottom end of the top 10% of _wage_ earners is $107,000 and we all know that is far below the one percenters who don't even work for wages.

    Where the market is is for older people with the money to burn but not a body that can suffer multiple Gs on take-off.
    • by 0123456 (636235)

      If you have $75G to waste on a vacation trip, then chances are you have $250G to waste also.

      That's like saying that if you can afford a new Honda Civic, chances are you can afford a new Porsche.

      There are plenty of us who could pay $75,000 for a vacation, but couldn't (or wouldn't) pay $250,000.

    • by AvitarX (172628)

      Most of the 1%ers I know work (doctors, lawyers). A lawyer from a top law school will likely be making over 200k in their late mid 30s if that's the path they want.

      1% is a 350k household salary, multiple times mine, but hardly unfathomable, and most people at that level are still working a day job (they are also banking large amounts, and living off less, and will be able to smoothly transition into retirement in their 50s).

      • Depends on where you get your numbers, and if you limit it to wages or include all income.

        Some other tax calculations require higher incomes before a person can be classified as part of the top 1 percent of earners.

        The Tax Policy Center in Washington, D.C., a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, runs an economic simulation model that shows the top 1 percent of earners in 2009 made $503,086. TPC projects $516,633 as the cutoff for the top earners in 2010 and $532,613 for 2011.

        Rober

  • ... if the CEO is E.D. Lawton?

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