The bloon will take up to six people -- four passengers and two pilots -- to 36,000 kilometers, or 118,000 feet. There, it will float silently for two hours, and what you do in near space is up to you. "Listen to your mp3s, have dinner, sip your favorite drink, or join the mile high club. It's your choice" the company says in a marketing brochure.

Passengers can also choose whether or not they would like to experience up to 25 seconds of weightlessness as the balloon falls back to earth. But if freefall's not your thing, you can choose to slow your descent earlier. Here's how it works: after the bloon is finished cruising, it begins its hour-long descent, or "venting phase," where the helium is released; the ballon, or "sail," is disconnected from the pod, and a parafoil slows the craft on its way down. Eight airbags under the passenger pod ensure a comfortable landing.

The BBC reports that the bloon will launch at night, so guests aboard the aircraft will be treated to a sunrise, as viewed over the curvature of the earth.

Zero2Infinity emphasizes that, unlike other manned spacecraft that are outfitted with rockets (SpaceShip2, for example), the balloon is earth (and space!) friendly. Since helium is the only propellent used, the environmental impact is virtually zero, the company claims.

The project began in 2009, but in August 2011, the company announced an investment from la Caixa, one of the largest banks in Spain, bringing Lopez-Urdiales' dream one step closer.

The bloon has yet to fly with passengers, but it's flown at least two prototype missions, one reaching as high as 108,000 feet, according to a promotional video from Zero2Infinity.

And while the first commercial flight won't take place until 2013 at the earliest, you can already buy a ticket. The cost? Flights start at €110,000, or about $158,500. By contrast, 430 people have already put down deposits to fly on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip2, which will travel to about three times the height of the bloon and cost $200,000 per person.

The Cosmos News Astronomy&Space Videos

LATEST NEWS VIDEOS

 
Top