Giant leap for mankind? Company successfully tests space-tourism balloon

An Arizona company says it has successfully completed the first small-scale test flight of a high-altitude balloon and capsule being developed to let tourists float 20 miles above the earth. World View Enterprises of Tucson said Tuesday that it launched the flight last week from Roswell, New Mexico. CEO Jane Poynter said the system broke the world record for highest parafoil flight, lifting a payload to 120,000 feet.

It represents a foundational achievement that moves us one step closer to offering a life-changing experience to our voyagers.

CEO Jane Poynter

World View hopes to launch its first commercial flights by the end of 2016, with about 50 trips in its first year, promising passengers a two-hour “sailing-like experience” inside a pressurized capsule, complete with in-flight Internet access and even cocktails. In an interview with earlier this year, Poynter said the concept of the company was inspired by the way astronauts describe their experience of going to space.