Exclusive, Expensive Space Balloon Ride Is Putting a Bow on Space Tourism

Neptune One, a space balloon for rich space tourism, will take off in 2024 7 photos
Photo: Space Perspective
Balloon-borne capsule Spaceship Neptune will take tourists and researchers to the edge of spaceBalloon-borne capsule Spaceship Neptune will take tourists and researchers to the edge of spaceBalloon-borne capsule Spaceship Neptune will take tourists and researchers to the edge of spaceBalloon-borne capsule Spaceship Neptune will take tourists and researchers to the edge of spaceBalloon-borne capsule Spaceship Neptune will take tourists and researchers to the edge of spaceBalloon-borne capsule Spaceship Neptune will take tourists and researchers to the edge of space
As the world is dying, is there any point in dressing up for dinner? According to the company making the luxury clothing items, not only is the answer a loud “yes,” but the dressing up part might inspire us with ideas on how to save the world.
The comparison is a bit forced, but it does hold: in the face of a new wave of environmental issues and alarms being set off by leading figures around the world, private companies are offering very expensive private flights to space, with the sole purpose of experiencing them. Exorbitant ticket prices aside, these launches are emissions-heavy and they distract (both attention and finances) from other, more pressing issues.

You’ve probably heard the argument already. With the likes of Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson launching themselves to the edge of space in their own rockets, and charging hundreds of thousands of dollars from the world’s richest for the privilege, shouldn’t humanity focus on solving the issues on this planet first? Criticized particularly for this, both Bezos and Branson claimed that there was some kind of noble goal behind their endeavors to launch space tourism, and that it had to do with helping man see the Earth from a different vantage point, so as to inspire him with ideas on how to save it.

To his credit, Elon Musk seems to be the only billionaire (future trillionaire) to speak the truth regarding his motivation for his space ventures. With SpaceX, he wants to build a valid Plan B for when our efforts to save Earth have failed. But even he is being criticized for it: why spend gazillions on rockets, when you could do it to save our planet from what you consider inevitable destruction?

The idea that space tourism could somehow save Earth, at least expressed in such vague and bulls***ty ways, is ridiculous. It’s also fancy window-dressing for a situation in which these people (Bezos and Branson, in particular) consider honesty would be bad for business. It’s also catching on, it seems.

A smaller space company to make headlines in recent months is Space Perspective, which will send a space balloon with eight people to the edge of space in 2025. Neptune One, as the balloon is called, will see the first flight tests in 2022 and a single-person flight in 2023. Full launch is scheduled for 2024 and all spots for that entire year are already sold out.

Neptune One promises to be the most Instagrammable experience ever, with the balloon offering private six-hour rides to anyone willing to pay $125,000 for a seat. You can even get hitched in space, if your wallet is up for the expense and you book the entire cabin. You get breakfast, a bar and wi-fi. You also get to experience a “deepened connection” with Earth, one that will have a ripple effect and will ultimately save it.

Space Perspective is a relatively new company, founded by Taber MacCallum and Jane Poynter. Prior to this endeavor, the duo sent computer scientist Alan Eustace into space in a balloon, so he could set the record for the highest altitude free-fall jump (136,000 feet / 26 miles / 42 km). They obviously know a thing or two about space balloons but, according to Poynter’s new interview with the Daily Mail, they’re taking cues for space tourism talk from Bezos and Branson.

It’s the kind of word salad that probably only makes sense for the rich, as they try to find an ultimate purpose to their outrageous spending.

“When people visit space and experience our Earth from that vantage point, they connect deeply with our planet and the singular human family that inhabits it. They see the tenuously thin blue line of our atmosphere and understand that we are indeed all in this together,” Poynter says. “It broadens their perspective and they return with a deepened commitment to social and environmental causes. Imagine a society where thousands, hundreds of thousands and eventually millions have gone to space, it will have a huge ripple effect through our society. It will change the world for good forever.”

The idea is simple: critics are wrong when they say space tourism is a waste of resources. Neptune One will become affordable one day ($40,000 for a ticket, Poynter says) and, when that happens, more people will be in a position to experience it. When they do, their vision will change and so will their destructive ways once back on Earth.

The idea is also naive at best and intentionally deceiving at worst, and it’s based on the fallacy that human nature or decades-old human behavioral patterns can change at the drop of a hat. It’s putting a bow on what is ultimately a whim of the rich, at the expense of everyone and everything else.

Neptune One is emissions-free and Space Perspective is a carbon-neutral operation, Poytner says. She could have led with that in her attempt to silence the critics, instead of all that inspirational mumble-jumble only the one-percenters of the world will buy.

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About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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