A new entrant in the space tourism market promises customers views of the Earth’s curvature from the comfort of a luxury cabin, lifted to the upper atmosphere with a giant balloon. Space Perspective on April 12 revealed illustrations of its swish cabins, which it hopes to start launching from the Kennedy Space Centre, in Florida in the United States, from late 2024. More than 600 tickets have so far been sold, at US$125,000 each. With windows 1.5 metres (five feet) high, deep seats, dark, purple tones and subdued lighting, the atmosphere contrasts with the white and sanitised capsules of its competitors. Wi-fi connectivity and a drinks bar round out the Space Lounge inside the company’s Neptune capsule. Whether it really constitutes space flight is a matter of debate. The balloon reaches an altitude of 20 miles (30km), much lower than rivals Virgin Galactic, which goes just over 50 miles high, or Blue Origin, which breaches the Karman Line, 62 miles above sea level and the internationally recognised space border. SpaceX Crew Dragons fly even deeper into space. But 20 miles is still far higher than commercial airliners, which ascend to around six miles high. Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson makes historic space flight “We are above 99 per cent of Earth’s atmosphere,” co-founder Jayne Poynter said, meaning passengers will really see the inky black of space. There’s no special training required. The balloon climbs at a serene 12 miles per hour (19km per hour), and the company pitches itself as a greener, zero-emissions alternative to burning rocket fuel to get up there: it intends to get the hydrogen for the balloon from renewable sources rather than extracting it from fossil fuels. The price for the two-hours-up, two-hours-gliding, and two-hours-down voyage, which ends with an ocean splashdown, is significantly less than that for Virgin Galactic tickets , which cost US$450,000 for a ride on a space plane. Blue Origin doesn’t disclose its prices but they are thought to be far more, while four entrepreneurs who flew to the International Space Station on a SpaceX ship paid a reported US$55 million each to the company Axiom Space for the privilege. “We wanted to find a way that really changed the way people think about space flight that makes it much more approachable and accessible,” said Poynter. One thing the passengers won’t experience is feelings of weightlessness. With Virgin’s space plane and Blue Origin’s rocket, passengers can unbuckle and float when the rocket engines are cut but the ship keeps coasting upwards for a few minutes before gravity pulls it back down. Jeff Bezos, Earth’s richest person, blasts into space Passengers on SpaceX spaceships and those on the International Space Station likewise experience apparent weightlessness because the vessels are orbiting the Earth. Space Perspective plans 25 flights in its first year, with all seats now booked.