Craft Tested in Roswell That Will Take Humans, Not Aliens, to Space

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A company recently launched a craft from Roswell, New Mexico that will eventually provide space tourists with a “discount” travel option.

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World View’s record-breaking parafoil flight. (Credit: World View)

Arizona-based World View Enterprises successfully completed its first small-scale test flight of a high-altitude balloon and capsule it intends to use to take passengers on suborbital voyages. This one-tenth scaled prototype, dubbed Tycho, launched from Roswell International Air Center in Roswell at 7:45 a.m. on June 18. This flight, which lasted more than five hours, broke the world record for highest parafoil flight. Alan Boyle of NBC News describes, “The flight brought a remote-controlled, balloon-borne craft up to a height of 120,000 feet (36.5 kilometers) and back down to 50,000 feet (15 kilometers). Then the craft was cut loose from the balloon and guided to a soft landing using an innovative parafoil.”

World View plans to begin offering commercial flights in 2016. The company’s balloon will carry a capsule housing two crew members and six passengers twenty miles above the Earth’s surface where they will float for approximately two hours before descending back to Earth. As Boyle points out though, the balloons won’t technically go into outer space. But these suborbital flights will still provide passengers with incredible views. The company details, “Our Voyagers will look out this enormous window at the spectacular view of our planet: the curvature of the Earth, that thin blue line against the backdrop of this beautiful starscape, the blackness of space that really only astronauts have seen until now.”

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Illustration of World View’s planned passenger capsule. (Credit: World View)

Virgin Galactic is supposed to begin offering its suborbital flights to space tourists by the end of 2014. But with a ticket price of $250,000, these space flights are financially unattainable for many would-be space tourists. World View’s balloon trips offer a “discount” option for space tourists at the price tag of $75,000. The company claims that seats have been sold for the first three flights. But more than 600 people have signed up for flights aboard Virgin Galactic.

Although the test of the Tycho craft was launched from Roswell, World View plans to launch its commercial flights from Spaceport America, which is near the city of Truth or Consequences, NM (Virgin Galactic is the anchor tenant at Spaceport America). But World View CEO Jane Poynter says that no final decision has been made on where to base the company’s flights.

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Artist’s rendering of Spaceport America. (Credit: Spaceport America)

An unidentified object crashed in the Roswell desert nearly sixty-seven years ago. The 1947 Roswell UFO Incident is the most widely known alleged UFO crash in history. In fact, the name “Roswell” is internationally synonymous with “UFO.” In July of 1947, the Roswell Army Air Field issued a press release announcing the recovery of a crashed flying saucer. Then a general promptly told the press that what was recovered was a weather balloon. So it’s mildly amusing that World View launched its high-altitude balloon from Roswell. But, for publicity purposes, they should have postponed the test flight a couple of weeks. The annual Roswell UFO Festival takes place July 3-6.

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