When William Shatner went to space on Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space shuttle on Oct. 13, 2021, he called the experience “among the strongest feelings of grief I have ever encountered.”
“The contrast between the vicious coldness of space and the warm nurturing of Earth below filled me with overwhelming sadness,” the actor said upon his return. “Every day, we are confronted with the knowledge of further destruction of Earth at our hands … my trip to space was supposed to be a celebration; instead, it felt like a funeral.”
The perspective shift in those who have seen our planet from above is said to be profound. But until now, the vast majority of those have come from a specialized cohort of scientists and engineers.
A new space travel experience company is looking to change that — without the negative environmental impacts typically associated with space travel.
The new space travel experience company Space Perspective offers the world’s first eco-friendly passenger flight to the edge of our planet’s atmosphere.
On Earth Day 2023, the company announced its partnership with EARTHDAY.ORG to encourage the public to protect Earth’s unique and fragile environment.
Space Perspective was founded by Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum in order to make space travel more accessible and more enjoyable than it has ever been before.
As the company’s website explains, each flight is powered by a SpaceBalloon full of hydrogen, which is lighter than air. This tried-and-true technology has been used for decades by NASA.
Rising at a gentle 12 miles per hour, the SpaceBalloon lifts the Neptune Capsule, a floating lounge with floor-to-ceiling windows on all sides for a clear view of the Earth below.
The Spaceship Neptune carries passengers on a 6-hour journey: two hours rising steadily above the Earth, two floating at the edge of space, and two descending to an easy water landing. Passengers will enjoy a bar, refreshments, Wi-fi, and a restroom on board.
The typical capsule holds plush, reclining seats for eight passengers and one pilot, but the furniture can also be swapped out to meet special requests. According to Poynter, the capsule could hold a dining table or even an altar for a wedding.
“We’ve already had people wanting to be the first marriage in space, so we’ll see who is the first,” she told The Cool Down.
Poynter and MacCallum were both members of the original Biosphere 2 crew in 1991.
Biosphere 2 was designed as an enclosed ecosystem made to support a small crew of humans and everything they needed to survive long-term, in the hope that astronauts might one day inhabit similar bases on other planets.
Poynter says that her two years in the sealed environment with MacCallum and six other crew members led directly to the creation of Space Perspective.
“We could see the edges of our world,” she told The Cool Down. “It gave me this incredible attachment to our planetary biosphere.”
“It turns out that that experience is very like the ones that astronauts have of seeing our Earth from the outside,” Poynter added. “They, too, see the edges of our world and understand how finite it is … Ever since then, my co-founder, Taber MacCallum, and I wanted to take everybody to space to have that incredible experience.”
To bring this vision of Earth to more of its inhabitants, Space Perspective released an inspiring one-minute video announcing its partnership with EARTHDAY.ORG.
The spot was created with the help and support of award-winning writer, producer, and director Ann Druyan. Druyan is the widow and frequent collaborator of renowned astronomer Carl Sagan, whose immortal words from his book “Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space” feature in the video.
According to Druyan, the first images of Earth from space, taken by the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, led to a “sea change in our thinking” about the environment.
“Any living organism has one task, and that is not to foul its nest: not to destroy the environment that sustains it, in order to pass its genes on to the next generation,” she told The Cool Down. “We’re in a kind of race between our destructiveness, our seemingly uncontrollable impulse to consume and devour everything in our path, and our wisdom.”
By operating Space Perspective, Poynter hopes to bring that vision to as many people as possible.
“What would happen if every teacher had seen Earth in space?” she asked. “What would happen if all our leaders had seen Earth in space, our community leaders? It would be a different conversation.”
She added that Space Perspective also hopes to invite artists and writers to join in the experience.
Poynter is also proud to be reaching space in the most gentle and eco-friendly way possible.
Instead of forceful rockets that spread debris and fumes, Spaceship Neptune will rely on a reusable pod, recyclable balloons, and renewable hydrogen.
“We’re using the laws of physics to go to space in an extremely low-energy way,” Poynter explained. “We’re just sitting on top of the atmosphere just like an ice cube sits on top of a glass of water.”
To make up for the comparatively small amount of heat-trapping gas that the company does produce, it purchases carbon credits. This year, the company backed the Blue Carbon project via Cool Effect.
Space Perspective has sold over 1,200 tickets so far at the price of $125,000 per seat and plans on launching its first passenger flights in late 2024.
While the price tag is by no means affordable to the masses yet, it’s certainly more accessible than a flight on Blue Origin, which can run into the multi-millions.
Join our free newsletter for weekly updates on the coolest innovations improving our lives and saving our planet.