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For $125,000, you can take a high-tech hot air balloon into space

Monday, June 28th 2021, 3:57 pm - Up, up and away.

It's a hot air balloon, with an extraterrestrial twist.

A Florida-based company called Space Perspective has begun taking reservations for a ride to the edge of space, with tickets costing $125,000 per person.

The company's Spaceship Neptune vessel took its maiden flight earlier this month. No people were aboard for the six-hour, 39-minute voyage, but cameras logged an awe-inspiring look at the Earth at sunrise.

The test flight marked an important milestone for the organization, putting it one step closer to entering the space tourism industry.

On future flights, each Space Perspective capsule will host up to eight guests and a pilot, with a co-pilot on the ground. The capsules resemble a flying saucer-hot air balloon hybrid. Touted as a 'luxury spacecraft,' they're fitted with large windows, 360-degree views, and a "loo with the best view in the known universe."

Measuring five metres in diametre, the capsules are attached to a polyethylene balloon that's about the length of a football field when inflated. They're a more sustainable form of space flight because the balloons are puffed up with hydrogen rather than helium, which is a limited and non-renewable resource.

"Space Perspective will also be the first-of-its-kind space laboratory, able to repeatedly test and capture data from a part of Earth’s atmosphere which to date has been little researched, paving the way for more scientific and creative breakthroughs," reads a statement from the organization.

"Eager to act as change agents and propel research in climate and atmospheric science, astro, and solar physics — Spaceship Neptune will enable explorers to participate in research as part of their own experience."

Though still in its infancy, space tourism is poised to become a lucrative industry, expected to be worth $3 billion (US) by 2030.

Other companies in the ring include Space X, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin.

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