Tucson company to offer space flights via balloon - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Tucson company to offer space flights via balloon

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TUCSON, Ariz. - As commercial spaceflight launches a new era in space, we still think of astronauts in heavy and cumbersome space suits and big rockets that rumble and roar their way into orbit. But one Tucson company wants to change all that. Going into space will be more like an airline flight.

People travel today in a ticket line, checking baggage, and going through security just to squeeze on board an airline with 300 other people sharing your destination.

But what if that destination was outer space?

A Tucson company wants to fly you there. "The moment I heard it, I said that's the way we want to take people into space," said Jane Poynter.

Poynter is the CEO of World View, she came to Tucson from Great Britain as a member of Biosphere 2.

"I lived inside biosphere two for two years and 20 minutes," she said.

Which also happened to be the title of her book on the experience.

"It was the most exciting thing I have ever done, it was the hardest thing I have ever done until now, I suspect that the world view is going to be incredibly exciting and quite difficult as well," said Poynter.

World View is a balloon launched space voyage. So anyone with enough money can boldly go where no one with a balloon has gone before.

"We take an enormous balloon about the size of a football stadium. It's light than air so it lifts you off the ground and with it is a sealed capsule inside which are six passengers and two crew" she said

"It goes up to above the atmosphere, above 99% of the atmosphere which is why the sky is black when you are up there, and you are floating along the top of the atmosphere," said Poynter.

"And then when it's time to come back down you start venting the gas out of the balloon you start coming back down, a parafoil takes over, and you steer back down, you glide back down to a pre-determined landing site," she said.

Poynter said the world view space capsule is a big selling point.

"In order to get on world view think of it like getting on a commercial airplane flight," she said.

More like flying first class. "Super comfy chairs, big picture window so you can see this beautiful view outside and, of course, a beverage of choice," said Poynter.

And when nature calls there is a bathroom on board.

The capsule will carry six passengers; it's pressurized and sealed, so no space suits are required.

"There's no training, no special gear, you have to wear none of that. No medicals either, we want to make this easy," she said.

Early tests of a scale model are being launched from a site in New Mexico. On June 18th, 2014 World View launched a parafoil on a flight that lasted 5 hours. It broke an altitude record for such flight in the process.

Full scale tests will move to Page, Arizona next year where paying customers will be taken into space starting in 2016.

"Its spectacular views, you are looking over the Grand Canyon how awesome is that," said Poynter.

"Arizona is one of the best places in the world for launching space travel, we are proud of that," said Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

Brewer recently toured the Tucson labs where World View will take place. She signed a new bill allowing companies like World View liability protections.

All systems are a go, after all it's all about the view from outside those big windows.

"When you hear people talk about wanting to go to space it's because they want to see the earth in space, and when you hear astronauts talk about seeing the earth in space it makes me want to go to see the earth in space, and this technology enables us to do that, because you can be up there for hours, it's gentle, you have time to experience and really absorb that experience," said Poynter.

The crew of two will include very experienced pilots. NASA's Mark Kelly is World View's director of flight crew operations. If you want to float into space, it will cost you $75,000 a seat; cocktails are included.
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