An animation of the balloon experience, via Vimeo/Priestmangoode
Fancy getting away from the planet for a while? You might not have to shell out for a Virgin Galactic ticket or sign up for a one-way trip to Mars. London and China-based design firm Priestmangoode has revealed its designs for a concept capsule that would take passengers on balloon flights to the “edge of space.” It’s like the best fairground ride ever.
While these images are concept pictures, it’s a real project. The actual flights are being planned by Paragon Space Development Corporation’s World View project, and will reportedly cost $75,000 (considerably less than Virgin Galactic). The proposed journey will see a polyethylene helium balloon lift the capsule to over 30 kilometres high for between two and six hours. It’s an intimate affair, with only eight people in the capsule at a time.
The capsule might not technically go into space (the distance at which space actually begins is controversial), but it would offer a good view of home thanks to huge windows on all sides. “It was crucial to find a way to maximise the viewing windows,” said Priestmangoode director Nigel Goode. “In our initial design meetings with the World View team, they talked about wanting to start the journey before dawn, so that as passengers rose up to space, they would be able to observe the sunrise, the curvature of the Earth, the thin blue atmosphere and the blackness of space.”
But whether in space or not, the FAA explained in correspondence with the project that human beings at 30 kilometres would still need the same kind of protection as if they were exposed to the environment of low-Earth orbit. Luckily for wannabe extreme-aeronauts, the proposed balloon capsule is designed to be suitably protective, with a pressurised cabin and additional safety features including a permanently deployed parafoil and a reserve parachute.