The future of space tourism may look nothing like the sterile, utilitarian white rooms imagined in the sci-fi staples we grew up with. Instead, it could be comfortable, familiar, and focused on fostering human connection and empathy, according to Space Perspective cofounder, co-CEO and CTO Taber MacCallum.
Space Perspective: The space-tourism-via-balloon startup aims to capture the essence and experience astronauts have of spaceflight. “When you talk with astronauts about their experience, they don’t talk about the microgravity, the rocket ride…what they talk about is hours spent at the window looking at the Earth below,” said MacCallum.
“That’s the quintessential experience.”
Space Perspective is developing a passenger capsule that will carry eight passengers and a pilot to a ~100,000ft suborbital altitude, ascending over two hours, floating for at least two hours, and descending over two hours for a minimum 6-hour journey that could be extended to as long as a full day. At the end of the flight, the capsule will splash down in the ocean.
Flying in luxury
Today, Space Perspective unveiled the interior design of SpaceShip Neptune, its passenger capsule. The space is designed with comfort and human connection in mind, looking more like a high-end lounge with a cocktail bar and panoramic windows than a space station.
- The design philosophy: “We don’t want people to get nervous as they see the Earth fading below them,” said MacCallum. “We want people to enjoy it. We want people to have a way to maybe look away if it’s getting too much.”
The design uses muted colors to reduce any glare on the windows, which will provide a panoramic, 360-degree view of planet Blue.
Tickets are $125,000 a head. The startup has already sold ~600 tickets, and MacCallum says the demand has come from across age groups, not just the retired folks he originally envisioned as the target customer.
- “That market is certainly there,” he said. “But we’re seeing across the board, a range of, you know, millennials who think this is an important experience, people who just want to have a good time with their friends.”
- To fund development, Space Perspective has raised $48M to date.
Balloons vs. rockets? The two ways of getting to suborbital space each have their benefits and drawbacks, MacCallum said. A balloon flight won’t give you the thrill or the feeling of weightlessness you get from something like Blue Origin’s tourist flights, but a balloon gives you a longer-lasting experience and gentler ride.
- MacCallum emphasized that the balloon flight will be especially safe for passengers since it never has to transition flight modes from the balloons to aerodynamic flight to a parachute landing—it’s just the balloon gliding all the way down. “Whenever you transition from one mode to another, there’s risk,” MacCallum said.
In the works: Space Perspective is in the designing and building stage right now. The company plans to begin test flights later this year, and is targeting 2024 for its first commercial flights.