Want A Space-Style View Of Earth? Astronaut Mark Kelly Joins Balloon Team
NBCNEWS.COM - Retired astronaut Mark Kelly, who commanded the second-last space shuttle mission — and spent months at the side of his wife, Gabrielle Giffords,
while the congresswoman recovered from a near-fatal shooting in 2011 —
has joined a venture to send tourists 100,000 feet up to get their own
space-style view of Earth.
"This is the next step," Kelly told NBC News on Sunday.
Kelly will serve as director of crew operations for Arizona-based World View Enterprises,
which is developing a high-altitude balloon and capsule that would take
passengers to an altitude of roughly 30 kilometers (19 miles, or
100,000 feet) for an hours-long view of the curving Earth beneath the
black sky of space.
World View says its flight system could also be used
for high-altitude research.
Subscale tests of the system are
scheduled to begin next year, with commercial flights due to start as
early as 2016.
World View said it will start taking flight reservations
on Wednesday, at $75,000 a ticket.From space to near-spaceKelly said that he's
known two of World View's founders, Taber MacCallum and Jane Poynter,
for years. "I met Jane at the same time I met Gabby," he said.
and Poynter, who are also among the founders of Paragon Space Development Corp., discussed the balloon business plan with Kelly during Giffords' convalescence.
Giffords left Congress last year, and the couple now lives in Arizona.
Kelly said Giffords isn't involved in the World View venture but
supports the idea.
"She's 100 percent behind my involvement," he said.Kelly has 25 years of flying experience, as a Navy test pilot and
combat aviator as well as a NASA astronaut. "I'm going to bring that
experience to World View," he said.
He'll be involved in the design and
testing of the balloon platform as well as crew selection. So will he be
the first to fly the craft? "That is a possibility," he told NBC News.
"It could be me, it could be somebody else that we recruit."
astronaut repeatedly referred to World View's balloon platform as a
spacecraft — even though it's not designed to go beyond the boundary
line of outer space, which is generally defined as 100 kilometers (62
miles) in altitude.
Rather, it's designed to fly almost three times as
high as a commercial jet's typical cruising altitude of 36,000 feet (11
kilometers). World View's aim is to give customers a space-like
experience at a lower cost and a lower level of risk than what's
typically associated with rocket-powered spaceflight.
Sharing the experience
Poynter noted that
high-altitude ballooning is a well-understood technology. "All of the
component parts have been flown before," she said. The key will be
"figuring out how to make it routine," with the objective of conducting
near-space flights on a weekly basis, she said.Kelly said his own experiences in space were among the factors that led him to get involved with World View.
are very few people who have had the opportunity to see the Earth as a
planet," he told NBC News. "We're going to give a lot of people the
opportunity to get to a vantage point that is incredibly unique.
see the Earth as a round ball from the blackness of space. To be able
to see what a sunrise and sunset looks like above the atmosphere.
what the stars look like above the atmosphere. It is like nothing I've
ever experienced before. ... For some people, it'll be probably one of
the best experiences of their lives. I can guarantee you that."
Friday, March 7 2014 3:59 PM EST2014-03-07 20:59:55 GMT
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - A pregnant South Carolina woman who drove a minivan carrying her three young children into the ocean surf off Florida is being charged with attempted murder and aggravated child abuse.More >>
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - A pregnant South Carolina woman who drove a minivan carrying her three young children into the ocean surf off Florida is being charged with attempted murder and aggravated child abuse. More >>
Friday, March 7 2014 12:46 AM EST2014-03-07 05:46:07 GMT
LONG BEACH, Calif. - About a mile and a half off the Long Beach coast may lie the answer to what scientists projected back in September:More >>
LONG BEACH, Calif. - About a mile and a half off the Long Beach coast may lie the answer to what scientists projected back in September: radioactive seawater contaminated by the tsunami and earthquake damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant has made it all the way to the shores of the United States. More >>
Thursday, March 6 2014 4:26 PM EST2014-03-06 21:26:03 GMT
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - The Hubble Space Telescope has captured the first pictures of a disintegrating asteroid. Asteroid P/2013 R3 was detected in September in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.More >>
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - The Hubble Space Telescope has captured the first pictures of a disintegrating asteroid. Asteroid P/2013 R3 was detected in September in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. More >>