If it would be possible to reuse all that helium, to put it back into the bottle sort of. And it tends to be more fun when things go up than down, still it's only the sudden stop that might be the problem.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given preliminary classification approval for a company that plans to offer $75,000 balloon rides to the edge of space. World View Enterprises balloon-gondola space vehicle at the edge of space 'It's so peaceful up here – pass me a pint, mate' The company that plans to loft …
It did strike me as a bit of a waste of the stuff, too.
But since when did people who can afford $75k for a joyride give a shit about using irreplaceable resources anyway?
[And yes: I'm being a killjoy hypocrite: I'd go if I had the chance, and I raptly followed both Bumgardner's and El Reg's efforts to fly to the upper reaches of the atmosphere.]
If that vid was narrated I can imagine some thick syrupy soothing narrator voice saying "Watch how the gondola detaches from the balloon and gently wafts back to the surface..."
What, we didn't accurately portray the gravity powered screaming plunge of terror? Oops..
Helium isn't exactly rare. It's a commodity with a devilishly managed artificial market. Here in the US we have the worlds largest reserves and the only reason they haven't been sold off is to keep the market at a peak profit point for those who deal in such things.
There's more than enough to 'waste'.
After going back and studying the last photo, I have determined this endeavor to be doomed. There are already Gremlins in the machine. You can see one by the wheel in the shadows of the forward wheel, exactly opposite the fellow heroicly gazing off into the distance. I'm not sure why the Gremlin is dressed in what appears to be a self inflating PFD, but I'm sure it probably knows...
Why on *earth* would you inflate the parafoil? The whole point of the thing is that it's self-inflated by forward air movement... pressurising it before takeoff either requires it to expand to ridiculous size at the maximum altitude, or it leaks most of its filling on the way up - which leaves it somewhat deflated on the way down.
But the article does suggest that the parafoil is already deployed during the freefall. (If you've got a capsule full of tanked up rich people it's probably advisable to end the freefall as gently as possible.) And since there's probably insufficient air density at the release altitude to reliably inflate the parafoil (correct me if I'm wrong) I suspect the idea is to use some sort of lightweight frame attached to the balloon. (Or maybe, heaven forbid, a truss.) The animation shows a fan of cables attached to the centre of parafoil and the capsule itself supported by parafoil lines which doesn't seem practical but is probably a lot prettier than the reality.
This thing scares the bejeezus out of me.
Don't get me wrong, I love space and all things spacey. If someone had given me a free ticket for SpaceShipTwo or DragonX or even Soyuz (in fact pretty much any manned launch vehicle from Mercury onward) I would have jumped at the opportunity.
But if you strapped me into this thing (and you'd have to) I know with absolute certainty that I'd hyperventilate all the way up and scream my tits off all the way down.
Maybe it's because traditional rockets and re-entry vehicles are tried and trusted technology. Or that SpaceShipTwo is so aircraft-like in design that there's a perception (possibly erroneous) that a non-catastrophic failure might be recoverable by a skilled pilot.
Or maybe it's simply the knowledge that those other vehicles will pretty much kill you instantly in the event of a serious accident, whereas anything snapping or ripping on this balloon gondola will result in a minutes-long weightless plunge to certain death accompanied by the screams of your fellow victims.
Even the Roton was less scary than this.
So you get eight people who can afford the trip. You ply them with alcohol for eight hours. Then you drop them like a stone.
At the very least, they will return to Earth pebble-dashed with diced carrot.
At the worst, they'll do something stupid like interfering with the pilot.
In my experience, the majority of people who participate in luxury events fall into two distinct categories. Those who understand the realities of the situation and accept them (yes there will be Mosquitos in your luxury African Safari lodge) and those who will bitch about the realities of the situation but whose 'interference' will be a strongly worded letter to the management about how your guide failed to keep the Mosquitos out of Africa.
Years ago my wife signed us up for a series of exotic 'luxury' excursions led by her favorite nature photographer. The photographer and the local guides were wonderful, but after trying it a few times we decided to never do that sort of thing again as the other people were absolutely some of the worst Humans that could ever be designed.
I wish all these balloononauts all the best, but I would rather be locked in a portable toilet at a music festival that's filled with angry bees than to be in this pod with a lot of entitled knobs.
@don - "I would rather be locked in a portable toilet at a music festival that's filled with angry bees . . ."
Well, if the music festival was filled with angry bees then I'd probably lock myself in a portable toilet too!
The sentiment is shared, however. I think the process would be one of starting as strangers, quickly becoming friends as you bond over the wonder and appreciate how small and precious all life is and how majestic the world that puts up with us, then followed very shortly after by an intense hatred of them all, culminating in the fervent wish that the capsule would indeed plummet back to Earth.
So... you get these rich nabobs stuck together for a bunch of hours of watching out the window. What would you like to bet that more than one of them will want to be on their phone, either talking or texting? Or maybe on their laptop (bitching about the poor signal) so that they can stay up on their email, Facebook, social media, or trade stocks.... Though theoretically it sounds great, the more that I think about it, the less I'd like to do this.
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