According to CEO Keisuke Iwaya, the Japanese company, Iwaya Giken, plans to make “space tourism” accessible and safe for everyone. By the end of this year, civilians can take a balloon ride at the cost of $180,000 and soar 15 miles above Japan in a two-seat orb, with the opportunity to witness the curvature of the Earth.
“It’s safe, economical and gentle for people,” he told reporters Tuesday. “The idea is to make space tourism for everyone.”
Iwaya envisions that his travel program will eventually reduce ticket prices by tens of thousands of dollars, and his company has been working on this initiative for over a decade. The passengers will sit next to a pilot who will fly them to the middle of the stratosphere. The balloons, which are filled with helium, take approximately two hours to reach the highest point. After remaining suspended in mid-air for an hour, the balloons will then descend for another hour, landing on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Compared to other aviation firms, such as SpaceX, Iwaya Giken’s balloon rides for “space tourism” are relatively modest. For example, in 2021, SpaceX sent an all-civilian crew into orbit for three days, where billionaire Jared Isaacman paid an undisclosed amount to host three passengers aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9.
The company is currently receiving applications for its first few rides, and the announcement of the selected five passengers is expected in October. It is worth noting that regular passenger planes typically fly at an altitude of around 40,000 feet.