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The space race for tourism has a new entrant - A Spanish company called Zero 2 Infinity. However, unlike Virgin Inc. and Space Adventures, it is not developing a high-tech fuel-burning space craft - just a simple eco-friendly helium balloon or bloon as it has been dubbed.
The bloon comprises of a gas-filled 423ft. wide and 316ft. tall sail that is attached to a passenger pod with a strong chain that also doubles up as the communication system and emergency-landing device, should the aircraft encounter any problems.
The passenger pod is a comfortable pressurized circular cabin that is fitted with windows all around, so that four guests and two pilots can enjoy a 360° view of the Earth from an altitude of 118,000 ft. (22 miles), or about three times the height scaled by commercial airplanes.
The Barcelona-based company estimates that it will take the bloon about an hour of peaceful gliding to get to the designated height. Once there, it will spend a few hours cruising at that altitude, allowing guests to enjoy the spectacular view and a scrumptious meal of their choice.
After that, begins the fun part. The bloon will start descending by gradually letting out the helium from its sail. Then, at a certain altitude, the pilots will completely jettison the sail and passengers will be given the option of experiencing different levels of gravity ranging from zero to lunar and even Martian, for a brief, but memorable 25 seconds, before a parasail takes control and gently guides the pod to its pre-designated landing spot. Eight airbags will be deployed from the bottom of the pod to ensure a 'soft' landing for its pampered passengers.
While the company is already taking reservations, the first flight is not scheduled for lift-off until 2013 at least, and could be as late as, 2015 - Which may give you some time to save up, since this four-hour excursion to the edge of the earth and back costs a whopping $158,000 USD per person! Zero 2 Infinity is also hoping that the bloons will be used for climate research. To book your ticket or just read more about this radical aircraft go to www.inbloon.com.
Resources: gizmag.com, inbloon.com