Co-founders Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum seek to give passengers a very different experience from the brief rocket-powered flight promised by Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin.
Photo courtesy of Space Perspective
Space: the last frontier or the next flagship tourist destination? Two entrepreneurs are betting on the latter.
Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum are the heads of Space Perspectives, a space tourism company that aims to transport travelers to the far reaches of space using a giant balloon.
The company is the last chapter in the life of its founders, who are best known for having participated in Biosphere 2, a project from the 90s where eight people locked themselves in an artificial world for two years. The project was designed to simulate a prototype space outpost.
Under this glass dome, the couple’s passion for space flourishes. They dedicated this passion to inspiring others through a visceral experience, a full experience with incredible views of Earth that only a privileged few have been fortunate enough to witness.
Historically, seeing the darkness of space and the thin blue line of Earth’s atmosphere has been reserved for professional astronauts. This is slowly changing as the burgeoning commercial space sector aims to open up the vastness of space to the masses.
Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have all shown that ordinary citizens can reach the last frontier, as long as they want to get on a rocket and have the backing of a billionaire. But Space Perspectives aims to change that.
Poynter and MacCallum say they will float travelers through space in a luxury pressurized cabin called Spaceship Neptune, named after not only the Roman god of the sea but also the eighth planet in our solar system.
The Neptune spacecraft will be able to carry eight passengers to an altitude of 100,000 feet above the Earth’s surface via huge helium-filled balloons similar to those used for decades by meteorological services.
The founders of Space Perspective say the experience will be very different from the brief rocket-powered flight that Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin promise. The passengers, whom Poynter and MacCallum call “explorers,” will buckle into their seats (like on a plane) and climb slowly to the target altitude and at a leisurely pace of just 12 mph.
Their ship is equipped with unlimited champagne and a breathtaking 360-degree view of the planet. The entire trip will take approximately 6 hours, ending with a water landing in the Gulf of Mexico.
The luxury space cruise costs $ 125,000 and the couple say they have sold around 430 tickets to date. They say the first paid passenger flight is expected to launch in 2024 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with around 25 flights initially planned. The company will then increase its speed, with the possibility of launching hundreds of flights around the world.
When asked if she would fly, Poynter replied, absolutely. “I already want to go”, she said Value, indicating that she could be one of the first eight passengers to complete a test flight in 2023. So far, the company has demonstrated that the balloon and spacecraft are performing as intended, thanks to a successful test flight (without explorers) in June of this year.
The couple are no strangers to human balloon flights and work with a team of experts, including Alan Eustace, who holds the current record for the highest parachute jump. In 2014, he ballooned to an altitude of 135,899 feet (higher than Space Perspectives passengers will fly) and returned safely to Earth with little more than a spacesuit and a parachute.
Many astronauts who have been to space will tell you that seeing Earth from this perspective is incredibly deep, if not overwhelming. Poynter and MacCallum hope their explorers have a similar experience, and the epic views will inspire people to go out and do great things.
MacCallum says their business is fortunate to have a global impact. He says the impact is twofold: it will inspire people to be better stewards of our planet, but also that anything is possible with the right technology.
“Imagine a world where someone in every classroom has been at the edge of space and can talk about seeing Earth from that perspective,” says MacCallum. “It also helps expand what people think and believe technology can do. ”
The couple hope they inspire their explorers to go out and do great things with the experience. Seeing the Earth from space has a profound effect on people, which is called the big picture effect. Not everyone flying the Neptune spacecraft will be a space enthusiast, in fact, Poynter and MacCallum hope they aren’t.
To that end, the experience is designed to be more of a luxury space cruise than a true astronaut experience. And since passengers only travel up to 100,000 feet, they won’t experience any of the weightlessness that passengers on other space tourism flights do – an added bonus in Poynter’s opinion.
“Microgravity is troublesome, especially for such a short time,” she says. “I’ve spoken with astronauts, and unless you go to the space station, that really takes away the wow factor.”
She says the Space Perspectives experience is going to be different. “We separate the experiences so that you can go to space and really focus on this amazing experience of being in space and enjoying the view,” she says.
For now, the astronomical cost of space travel limits its audience. But that is slowly starting to change, thanks to the growth of the private space industry. And if history is any indicator, as technology continues to improve, costs will continue to drop, allowing more people to access it. With its low price, the Space Perspectives experience is redefining space tourism. Poynter and MacCallum are happy to spearhead this effort.