Startup to Offer Balloon Rides to Space for $75,000

November 20, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. space tourism [speys TOOR-iz-uh m] (n. phrase) – space travel for recreational purposes
Example: Space tourism can be popular because many people want to explore the outer space.

2. startup [STAHRT-uhp] (n.)  – a young, newly-created company
 Example: Most startups have to deal with lack of funding because they only just began earning.

3. gondola [gon-DOH-luh] (n.) – a passenger compartment hanging beneath a balloon
Example: The hot air balloon has a gondola capable of carrying up to fifteen passengers.

4. ascent [uh-SENT] (n.) – an upward movement
Example: During the initial ascent from the airport runway, airplanes require passengers to fasten their seatbelts and remain in their seats.

5. accessible [ak-SES-uh-buh l] (adj.) – not overly expensive
Example:  The company realized that it should offer more accessible services instead of the expensive ones.


Read the text below.

A space tourism startup based in Arizona plans to offer commercial space flights using high-altitude balloons for $75,000 per seat.

Up until now, most space flights have used space rockets. However, the startup World View Enterprises intends to deploy helium [HEE-lee-uh m] balloons to carry tourists to the edge of space.

Jane Poynter, World View’s CEO, is pioneering the spaceflight venture together with her husband, Taber McCallum, the startup’s chief technology officer. Also involved in this venture are expert Grant Anderson from Paragon and Alan Stern, a planetary scientist.

Each helium balloon will carry a pressurized gondola, which will be able to accommodate eight passengers. These eight passengers include two pilots and six tourists, but will eventually be reconfigured to one pilot and seven tourists.

The ascent will take two hours, after which the balloons will remain floating for another two hours before the 30-minute descent. The ride will reach a maximum height of 30 kilometers, which is below the 100-kilometer boundary of outer space. Technically, this experience will not be an outer space ride. Thus, it will not involve zero-gravity sensation.

However, the company says that tourists will be able to see Earth’s curvature and experience the black-sky view of the planet that is normally experienced only in much more expensive outer space flights. Some of these rocket flights, like the ones offered by Virgin Galactic, cost more than $250,000 per ticket.

World View Enterprises believes that having more accessible space tourism offers can tap a big market. The company plans to fly the first balloons in 2016, although it will start selling tickets within the next few months.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you think that space tourism will become a huge industry in the future? Why or why not?
·         Would you pay $75,000 for a ride on the World View balloon? Explain.

Discussion B

·         What do you think is the reason behind mankind’s interest in outer space? Discuss with your teacher.
·         Do you think it is important to find life on other planets? Why or why not?


November 20, 2013