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Can’t travel on earth? Go into space on this high-tech balloon instead

The Neptune aims to fly passengers to the edge of space by 2024 – but a trip will set you back $125,000

Huw Oliver
Written by
Huw Oliver

Daunted by the prospect of travel in a post-‘rona world? If you want to avoid the complex tangle of border closures, restrictions and quarantines imposed by countries around the world, perhaps you should give outer space a go.

Only two problems: you’ll have to wait until 2024 – and it’ll cost you.

American start-up Space Perspective has just released renderings of its brand new Neptune spaceship, which it hopes could soon take tourists on a cruise around the stratosphere. And it’s essentially… a hot air balloon.

Weighing some five tons, the spaceship has two parts: a four-metre-tall, five-metre-wide pod with floor-to-ceiling windows, and a huge, high-altitude hydrogen balloon to aid the descent. The company says it could carry up to eight travellers (plus one pilot) on a six-hour journey to the edge of the earth’s atmosphere and back.

You’ll have to have pretty deep pockets, though. Space Perspective has said that a trip is likely to cost less than half the ticket price on a Virgin Galactic flight – which would still make it around $125,000 (£100,000 or A$180,000) per head.

Space Perspective capsulePhotograph: Space Perspective

The capsule itself was designed by the PriestmanGoode studio and aims to ‘[provide] our explorers the inspirational experience that astronauts describe of seeing our earth in space’, according to Space Perspective co-founder Jane Poynter.

A journey on the Neptune would start at the Shuttle Landing Facility at Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, embarking on a two-hour ascent to 30,000 metres above the Atlantic Ocean.

It would then cruise at this height for around two hours, allowing travellers to take in the views, before descending for another two hours back to earth. The spaceship would land in the middle of the Atlantic, where a ship would pick up the passengers, pod and balloon.

The company has scheduled the first test flight to take place in early 2021 (without any passengers), and the first with a crew for 2023. Commercial operations may kick off in 2024.

So that gives you four years to start saving. Earthbound holidays? How very passé for the well-off few!

Space Perspective capsulePhotograph: Space Perspective

Want to know when you can travel on this planet again? Here’s what we know so far.

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