“If you’re looking for the fury and vibration of a rocket, you’ve come to the wrong place,” says Jane Poynter, cofounder of Space Perspective. “Our Spaceship Neptune offers a gentle ride into space that lets clients absorb the astronaut experience.”
The football-field-sized space balloon carrying the bulbous cabin into the sky at 12 mph (the speed of a leisurely bike ride) stands in stark contrast to the thunderous Flash Gordon blastoffs of Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin. The swanky, pressurized lounge on Spaceship Neptune is a panopticon of windows with a bar and bathroom. There’s even Wi-Fi. Instead of g forces gluing travelers to their seats, eight passengers and one pilot will sit in recliners, chatting and sipping cocktails as they gradually zoom out on Kennedy Space Center, Spaceship Neptune’s home port, until it becomes the Florida peninsula, then the East Coast, and finally a grand view of Earth itself.
“Some people would love to go pre-dawn,” says Poynter, “so you can really experience the extraordinary sky and see the iconic blue line that separates the Earth below and space. There’s almost a crazy rainbow effect.”
High-altitude balloons have been tested and used by NASA since the 1930s, when they were first employed for research and adventuring. Poynter and her husband, Space Perspective cofounder Taber MacCallum, developed and launched the space balloon that carried Alan Eustace to his world-record parachute jump of 135,980 feet in 2014.
The 100,000-foot climb of Spaceship Neptune will not take passengers into space, but Poynter claims it will replicate the suborbital rocket experience (what Richard Branson experienced during his historic July flight aboard Virgin Galactic’s spaceplane VSS Unity, minus the weightlessness) but with a lot more luxury, while still providing passengers with incredible views of the curvature of the Earth below and the blackness of space. “The way we designed it was to make it as easy as boarding a commercial aircraft,” says Poynter. “We wanted our clients to sit back and enjoy the luxury experience.”
Splashdown pickup is via boat. After a successful test of its prototype in June, Space Perspective began selling tickets for flights beginning in 2024, at a cost of $125,000 per seat.