Following the successful completion of a couple of crucial test flights by Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, space tourism services from both companies look set to launch some time next year.
Both rides rely on rockets to get passengers up to somewhere near the Kármán line, the boundary 62 miles above Earth that’s widely regarded as the start of space.
But there’s another company intent on offering the trip of a lifetime high above the clouds, one that takes things at an altogether more leisurely pace.
Space Perspective has built and tested Spaceship Neptune, a luxury eight-seat piloted capsule that’s lifted skyward by a giant hydrogen-filled balloon. The interior includes reclining chairs, a refreshments bar, Wi-Fi, and all-around windows
The Florida-based company this week shared a video (below) offering a glimpse of what the experience will look like.
It’s worth pointing out that despite the use of the “space” for both the company name and vehicle, Spaceship Neptune only rises 20 miles above Earth, well short of the Kármán line though around three times higher than a long-haul passenger jet. And unlike the experiences offered by both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, there will be no zero-gravity experience where you can float around the capsule for several minutes.
Space Perspective’s ride will, however, last six hours, which is way longer than, say, Blue Origin’s trip, which takes just 10 minutes from launch to landing.
Passengers aboard the balloon will enjoy a relaxing two-hour ascent, a further two hours to enjoy the gorgeous views, and then a two-hour descent back home.
At $125,000, a ticket for a ride on Spaceship Neptune is a little more affordable than a Virgin Galactic seat that means coughing up $450,000. Blue Origin is yet to announce prices.
Space Perspective started selling tickets for its experience a few months ago. The first flights are set to take place in 2024, though the company says it’s already sold out for then, with ride for 2025 now available.
Besides offering pleasure trips, the capsule will also serve as a high-altitude laboratory, allowing scientists engaged in subjects such as climate and solar physics to conduct experiments in a part of Earth’s atmosphere little researched up to now.
Space Perspective’s balloon will launch from Florida’s Space Coast Spaceport close to the Kennedy Space Center, with the company planning to add additional launch sites around the world over time.
Yusaku Maezawa and Elon Musk. Yusaku Maezawa/Instagram
Japanese fashion tycoon Yusaku Maezawa, who signed up to be SpaceX’s first customer to fly to the moon aboard a Starship spacecraft in 2023, has been looking for a few like-minded space enthusiasts to join him on the voyage—all expenses paid. The search is now in the final stage of screening as the billionaire has narrowed the selection down to just 20 finalists.
Maezawa is the founder of Japanese fast fashion giant Zozotown. An avid art collector, Maezawa limited the search to artists. But the definition is loose. “Every single person who is doing something creative with their lives, aren’t they all artists?…If you see yourself as an artist, then you are an artist,” the entrepreneur said in March when announcing the search, dubbed Project dearMoon.
Four months and more than a million applications later, Maezawa has set his eye on 20 people. “Coming close to the end of the selection process for dearMoon!” he wrote in an Instagram post on July 15.
A YouTube video posted by Maezawa the same day featured a selection of applicants explaining what they hoped to accomplish on the trip. The finalists span a wide range of artistic professions, including painters, dancers, DJs, photographers and even Olympics gold medalists.
“I would consider this to be the most ambitious and probably one of the greatest artistic collaborations ever,” one of the 20 finalists, Vancouver artist Boris Moshenkov, said in an Instagram video last month. “That’s what gives me goosebumps every time I think about the project.”
Tracy Fanara, a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who creates space-themed art in her free time, was in the final round.
“I did not sleep for like six weeks going through the process,” Fanara told DailyMail. “Lets just say, going through the process and getting to each step is just crazy. To think you might actually be apart of something so much bigger than yourself.”
These 20 finalists will compete for eight seats on the SpaceX flight. Also flying along will be a few SpaceX employees, making the total crew 10 to 12 people.
The civilian crew will not actually land on the moon, but flying around it. It will take them three day to reach the moon, less than one day to loop around it, and three days to return to Earth.
Maezawa signed up to be SpaceX’s first moon passenger in September 2018 and reportedly put down a hefty deposit. He is expected to fly in a Starship spacecraft, which is being tested to reach Earth’s orbit, atop a yet-to-be-built Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) booster.