As part of our ongoing effort to track space tourism competitionbecause how else is the price ever going to drop enough so we can afford itplease turn your attention to the bloon.
Designed by Spanish entrepreneur Jose Lopez-Urdiales, the bloon is a sub-orbital device (kind of) that takes people to space (in a manner of speaking) and is scheduled to start flying in 2013 (theoretically). We're hedging on this description because the bloon isn't so much a spaceship like we've all become used to, as much as it is a really big hot air balloon.
The project webpage is reasonably slick, though the branding is kind of gratingly New Agey. There's lots of hand waving about going to "a place where borders do not really exist" and "where creation becomes real," with a promise to "help awaken consciousness of the unique, fragile beauty of our planet" so that you can become "one with your home planet." If we didn't know better we'd think it was kind of a parody, but other parts of the site seem reasonably straightforward.
On the site you'll find a a newsroom, a press release section, and even a page where you can make a deposit for a future flight (€ 110k to lock in a seat now, from what we can tell; there are actually three "deposit" tiers). There's even a section where you can read about the capital that the venture has raised, which is reassuring inasmuch as it indicates that people with money had enough faith to hand over some of it.
That said, we're still kind of nervous about this "balloons going really high" thing. In theory you should be able to make a balloon go to the tip-top of the atmosphere, although it would take some creativity to get all the pressure right and then get it back down. But we're kind of running into a psychological barrier when it comes to leaving the planet in something that looks like it came out of Up. Alsoand you can check us heredoesn't it kind of look like the balloon is coming out of the volcano lair of a Bond villain? That's not confidence-inspiring, is it?