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Published: Sunday, 10/27/2013


Up, up, and away

A space tourism company in Arizona plans to take those who can afford the $75,000 sticker price on a journey to Earth’s stratosphere in 2015.

World View isn’t going to use rockets to put tourists at the edge of space. Instead, it will imitate what the Montgolfier brothers did in France in 1783 — send people up by balloon.

The company will launch six passengers and two crew members in a capsule that will take 90 minutes to get 19 miles above the Earth. The capsule will drift for several hours until it jettisons the balloon and glides back home via parasail.

World View’s mode of travel won’t be all that different from that of Joseph-Michael and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier, who invented the hot-air balloon. They launched the first unmanned flight 6,600 feet on June 4, 1783; their balloon stayed aloft for 10 minutes and drifted a mile.

The second flight, that September, had a duck, a rooster, and a sheep on board. The animals survived the eight-minute trip that carried them for two miles; a crowd of 130,000 watched.

The first manned flight took place the next month. Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier was the first human to ride one of the Montgolfier balloons. His survived the four-minute flight at high altitude. Unfortunately, Mr. de Rozier was the first person killed in a balloon when his exploded two years later, as he tried to cross the English Channel.

On Jan. 19, 1784, a Montgolfier-built balloon with seven passengers in a gondola ascended to 3,000 feet before returning safely to Earth. Travel has come a long way since, but one mode of getting around has stayed the same.

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