Alexandra Bruce
November 7, 2014

“Imagine… floating in the immensity of space, gazing at spectacular views of our planet — the curvature of the earth painted in saturated hues of white, blue and green against the blackness of an infinite cosmos. This captivating, transformative experience — once reserved only for astronauts — is a voyage you can take to the frontier of space for a view of our world like none other.”

So says the sales pitch accompanying this promotional video from World View Enterprises, one of roughly 50 companies vying for the Space Tourism dollars of high net worth individuals, along with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

In September, Branson had announced that Virgin Galactic would be ready to launch some of its first $250,000-ticket tourists into near space by February or March of 2015. Unfortunately, this was a few weeks before Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo test flight splintered into pieces at 45,000 feet, killing Co-Pilot, Michael Alsbury on October 31, 2014.

Last week, the United State’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Acting Chairman, Christopher Hart said that the agency was “months and months away” from finding out what went wrong, which could set back the space tourism timeline by several years.

However, the Wall Street Journal published an article on November 6, claiming that insiders who have seen the video of the cockpit during the ill-fated test flight are convinced that the cause of the crash were the actions of the late co-pilot, in unlocking movable tail surfaces earlier in the flight than normal, without being instructed to do so by the craft’s commander.

SpaceShipTwo’s so-called feathering system was unlocked by Alsbury about 10 seconds after its rocket motor kicked in – a point at which the space plane was just breaking the sound barrier and when it flying some 250 miles an hour slower than the speed at which the tail surfaces were designed to be safely freed. The feathering system is designed to slow the craft as it returns from space and to set it up for a safe glide back to Earth. The resulting structural stresses led to SpaceShipTwo’s midair disintegration.

As you can see here, World View takes a very different approach to achieving manned exploration of the stratosphere (“Stratex”), using a helium-filled balloon and a para glider.

“The experience you saw on the video doesn’t really do justice to the experience we’re creating,” says Andrew Antonio, a young marketer for World View Enterprises, Inc. “What we want to do is use a technology that allows you to have a space flight experience that’s similar to the room you’re standing in today.”

With no medical pre-screening and no special training necessary, World View simply offers
two hours of sublime space viewing from the comfort of a 9,000-pound pressurized capsule
20 miles above the earth. Cheaper than Virgin Galactic’s $250,000 suborbital flight, a World View “experience” only costs $75,000 a pop and it hypes kind of spiritual revelation previously known only to Astronauts.

World View’s pressurized capsule will even feature a full bar on board. Until Virgin Galactic’s accident last week, World View was taking reservations for 2016…

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