Florida company's balloon-powered craft offers a different 'Perspective' on space travel

The six-hour trip aboard Spaceship Neptune includes two hours floating above the Earth. Photo Credit: Space Perspective
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Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

As big players like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson edge closer to launching tourists into space, an Arizona couple have revived their plans for offering a gentler -- and more affordable -- option for the space-curious.

The husband and wife team of Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum this week announced the launch of their company, Space Perspective, which they said will float travelers into space in a pressurized, luxury cabin called Spaceship Neptune that will be lifted by football-field-size helium balloons similar to those that have been used for decades by weather services.

The capsule, complete with a bar and bathroom, can hold up to eight passengers and will be roomy enough for them to walk around during the six-hour flights.

T0628NEPTUNEONE3_C [Credit: Space Perspective]
The husband and wife team of Taber MacCallum and Jane Poynter are the co-founders of Space Perspective. Photo Credit: Space Perspective

Once the capsule reaches the gliding altitude of 100,000 feet, it will float there for two hours so travelers can soak in the 360-degree views of Earth. No advance training, special clothing or equipment is required.

It's a concept that Poynter and MacCallum unveiled a decade ago as part of the Tucson-based World View Enterprises, which opened its own spaceport in Arizona. That company, however, veered off on a different track in response to commercial demand for using its balloons to launch commercial payloads.

The couple has since sold their interest in World View, returning to their vision of launching space tourism flights with the new company, based out of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. With the public launch announcement, Space Perspective said it has also begun taking reservations for flights that it said will begin as early as 2024 from Space Coast Air and Spaceport, adjacent to Kennedy.

The company, which said it completed its first test flight from the Florida spaceport last Friday, is touting the spaceflights as a gentler, less risky and more accessible option to rocket-powered space travel.

Indeed, for just the space travel bargain price of $125,000 a passenger, the cost is comparable to that of popular round-the-world private jet trips offered by companies like Abercrombie & Kent and Four Seasons. And it's half the price being charged by Branson's Virgin Galactic.

Price tags for some other initial space flights from Blue Origin and Space X have reached into the millions, prompting one analytics firm recently to question the long-term viability of space tourism if prices don't come down.

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