Up, up and away: A classic mode of travel aims for the fringe of space

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An Arizona space tourism company has announced plans to take those who can afford the $75,000 sticker price on a journey to Earth's stratosphere in 2015, if all goes according to plan.

World View, the company that hopes to launch a two-person crew for a fly-by of Mars in 2018, isn't going to use rockets to sent tourists to the edge of space. For this, it will imitate what the Montgolfier brothers did in France in the 1780s -- take people up by balloon.

The company will launch six passengers and two crew members in an environmentally controlled capsule that will take 90 minutes to get 19 miles above the Earth. Once there, the capsule will drift for several hours until it jettisons the balloon and glides to a landing under parasail.

World View's mode of travel won't be all that different from that of Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier, who invented the hot-air balloon. The brothers launched the first unmanned balloon 6,600 feet on June 4, 1783, where it stayed aloft for 10 minutes and drifted a mile.

The following January, a Montgolfier balloon with seven passengers in a gondola ascended to 3,000 feet before returning safely to Earth. It wasn't the edge of space, but it was a new height for tourism. Travel has come a long way since, but a classic mode of getting around has stayed the same.


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