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article imageSpace Perspective joins race to send tourists to the stratosphere

By Karen Graham     Jun 19, 2020 in Science
Space Perspective has formally announced plans to take paying customers to space aboard their spaceship Neptune, lifted to the edge of space by a high altitude balloon system, with test flights set to begin in early 2021.
Everyone should have the opportunity to become a space tourist, and if all goes according to plan, a new company, Space Perspective may just be the answer. Riding in Spaceship Neptune, a hydrogen-filled balloon to the edge of space will be a gentle ride - "making it a viable option for a wide variety of people, including those who are a bit long in the tooth or not in great physical condition," according to Space.com.
Space Perspective founders, Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum should be familiar to many people. In the early 90s, they designed the air, food, and water systems for Biosphere 2, still, the most advanced prototype space base ever built and operated.
“When we were in Biosphere 2, one of the seminal experiences was being part of our biosphere,” Poynter said, reports Forbes. “The experience of oneness with our world is very similar to the experience astronauts have of space.”
View of Biosphere 2  Habitat & Lung. The habitat is where the crew lived during the mission. The lun...
View of Biosphere 2, Habitat & Lung. The habitat is where the crew lived during the mission. The lung is what maintains air pressure inside the structure. Image taken on May 10, 2009.
DrStarbuck
The two intrepid souls also founded World View Enterprises in 2013. Headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, the company was originally positioned as a space tourism company but has since pivoted to research and payloads rather than passengers. The company now designs, manufactures, and operates stratospheric balloon flight technology for a variety of customers and applications.
Experiencing the "Overview Effect"
MacCallum says experiencing the "overview effect" is what this new venture is all about. The overview effect or experience is a well-documented psychological shift that happens for individuals – particularly astronauts – when they see the earth from the perspective of space. “Our goal is to make that space perspective available to as many people as possible,” says MacCallum.
The Overview Effect was first coined in Frank White’s 1987 book of the same name. Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins famously described his shift in perspective, saying “The thing that really surprised me was that it [Earth] projected an air of fragility. ... I had a feeling it’s tiny, it’s shiny, it’s beautiful, it’s home, and it’s fragile.”
Considered one of the finest images ever taken -  The Blue Marble  photograph of Earth  taken by the...
Considered one of the finest images ever taken - "The Blue Marble" photograph of Earth, taken by the Apollo 17 mission. The Arabian peninsula, Africa and Madagascar lie in the upper half of the disc, whereas Antarctica is at the bottom. Image dated December 7, 1972.
NASA/Apollo 17 crew
The video accompanying this story, called "The Overview Effect" is a short film that explores this phenomenon through interviews with five astronauts who have experienced the Overview Effect. There is also commentary from Frank White. The film is not only incredible but well worth your viewing time. "That is really what this is all about," Poynter says. "Everybody should be able to see the Earth from space."
To this end, the London-based design firm Priestman Goode was asked to create a capsule that would allow for a maximum unobstructed view as possible. The spaceship, called Neptune, is named for both the planet and the Ancient Greek god of water. This takes into account that our blue dot of a planet is one of the few places we know has water, and water is critical to all life on our planet.
The actual trip is centered around accessibility
At a cost of about $125,000 - which is about half the most recent stated price for a ride aboard Virgin Galactic's suborbital SpaceShipTwo space plane, space tourists will get a six-hour trip. There will be little specialized training needed, either, other than learning entry and exit procedures, and what to do in an emergency.
A rendering of the Space Perspective capsule Neptune in space.
A rendering of the Space Perspective capsule Neptune in space.
Space Perspective
The actual trip will consist of two hours ascending to the stratosphere at the breakneck pace of 12 miles per hour for the eight passengers and one crewmember. Neptune will reach an altitude around 100,000 feet; this is lower than the Kármán line, the generally accepted ‘edge of space’ at roughly 100 kilometers above the earth.
Launches will initially be made from Jacksonville, Florida's Cecil Spaceport, and the Kennedy Space Center, according to Poynter. However, the company is looking to lift off from a variety of additional locales as well, including international spaceports and sites in Alaska and Hawaii.
The company is encouraging people to go ahead and sign up now for a seat on the Neptune. "We're already giving people seat allocations, even though you don't have to pay any money now," Poynter said. "That way, the early birds get at the front of the line."
More about space perspective, Stratosphere, balloon ride, Overview Effect, Krmn line
 
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