Tucson company, World View, wants to put you on a balloon to space

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Courtesy of World View

An artist's rendering of World View's proposed design.

Your next vacation might be to outer space. At least that’s the goal at World View Enterprises, a local Tucson company committed to making space tourism an accessible reality.

The company is designing high altitude balloons capable of carrying people up into the stratosphere where they would be able to look down upon the Earth while suspended in the darkness of space.

“World View’s mission is to give people like you and me a new perspective on the world,” said Andrew Antonio, corporate development lead at World View Enterprises. “A lot of people will say ‘oh, well you’re just taking people up to space and its really just a joyride for rich people to go to space,’ and that is completely not what we’re doing.”

As opposed to other space tourism ventures, which are using rockets, World View is relying upon high altitude balloons. The balloons, made from a thin and durable polyurethane material, get filled with helium on the ground and then start to expand as they ascend. When fully expanded, you would be able to fit and rotate an NFL football stadium inside the balloon.

“The whole vision behind what we are doing is building a new affordable way to take everyday people to space to give them this transformative perspective on the earth on which we live,” Antonio said.

World View’s model drastically changes the nature of space travel. “For us, space doesn’t have to be adrenaline laced. … We want to emphasize the serenity of space,” Antonio said. “… The difference is that when you are going up in the balloon, you are going the speed of what you might walk on the road.”

You are not going to need to be as well trained or as physically fit as NASA’s average astronaut to fly with World View, according to Antonio. Passengers will not even need special suits or a medical pre-screening.

“If you can go on a commercial airline, you can fly with World View,” Antonio said.

The technology behind World View’s mission is more than just a cool concept. It was used in the StratEx mission to bring Google executive Alan Eustace to the edge of space for a record-breaking space dive.

This summer, an intern from the UA had the opportunity to get hands on experience working at Worldview.

“I got the opportunity to work on a lot of different exciting aspects of the company,” said David Farrell, a mechanical engineering junior. “… I always like to say that it’s sort of representative of my time there that my first day I was building shelves, the next week I was helping to build a balloon that would go to near space. And then the week after that, I was figuring out all the logistics for tracking the trajectory of the balloon and being able to recover the payloads.”

World View is not only committed to space tourism, it is also hoping to expand research opportunities in the stratosphere. World View collaborates with scientists, researchers and NASA to fly their instruments into space to collect valuable, and often difficult to obtain, data about the ozone layer, weather and climate change.

As Antonio said, “It is also one of the sexiest things that is happening on the planet Earth right now.”


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