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Want to reach the edge of space in a balloon? Startup hopes to make it reality

Space Perspective is hoping to offer more people the chance to touch space with trips 19 miles above the Earth's surface.

A new company has launched, hoping to send people on a six-hour round trip to the edge of space in a giant, hydrogen-filled balloon. It's reportedly the second shot for the co-CEOs, who had a vision for this with their last company.

Space Perspective said Thursday it has established a launch center at the former Space Shuttle landing facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Its goal is to send people and research payloads aboard a pressurized capsule attached to a balloon. It's called Spaceship Neptune.

"We’re committed to fundamentally changing the way people have access to space – both to perform much-needed research to benefit life on Earth and to affect how we view and connect with our planet,” Space Perspective Founder and Co-CEO Jane Poynter said in a statement.

The balloon is the size of a football stadium, the company said, attached to a "spacious" capsule that can carry up to eight passengers.

It takes two hours to ascend, with the final destination putting passengers nearly 19 miles above the Earth's surface. That's still below the 24 miles skydiver Felix Baumgartner reached before his record jump in 2012.

Credit: Space Perspective
An artist's rendering of the outside of Space Perspective's Spaceship Neptune capsule, 19 miles above Earth's surface.

Passengers get to stay there for two hours before a two-hour descent to splashdown where a ship will pick them up. It will land in the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean, depending on which way the wind is blowing, Poynter told the New York Times

If something goes wrong, the capsule will reportedly have a parachute.

While it may give more people access to space, it won't be cheap. Poynter told the Times, it will probably be $125,000. The first passengers may take off as soon as 2025.

Space for Humanity, a non-profit group that said its mission is to expand access to space and "cultivating a movement towards a more harmonious world" is partnering with Space Perspective for a Citizen Astronaut program, the company said.

Credit: Space Perspective
An artist's rendering of inside Space Perspective's Spaceship Neptune capsule, suspended below a balloon 19 miles above Earth.

Poynter and co-CEO Taber MacCallum have tried this before, according to the Times. Their previous venture, World View, never got around to sending people to space. It instead opted for smaller balloons for science and advertising purposes. It's still in operation today.

Poynter and MacCallum, who are married, are giving it another go.

The company said it hopes to begin non-crewed test flights with research cargo in early 2021.

The announcement comes less than a month after SpaceX became the first commercial venture to launch humans into space. Two NASA astronauts rode aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule and are currently onboard the International Space Station.

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