Space may be the final frontier, but you don’t have to wait for warp drive to explore it. Like myself, I’m sure many of you are waiting for the chance to extend your travels beyond our planet and my live chat guest today is working to make that happen.
In 2009 Jose Mariano Lopez-Urdiales founded Zero2Infinity in Barcelona, Spain; its maiden vehicle is bloon, a stratospheric balloon that will allow people to fly to Near-Space. Thanks to his astronomer father, he has been in close contact with space missions ever since he was a child. He graduated in Aeronautical Engineering from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, and since then has been involved in a host of cutting-edge projects such as building and flying microgravity payloads for the European Space Agency, rocket science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Ariane 5 Evolution Space launcher, to name a few.
The Q&A is now closed. Thanks everyone for participating!
open today, July 11th from 1-2pm US EST (5pm-6pm GMT; 12am-1am Bangkok). Scroll down or click here to submit your questions below!
I first met Jose in 2011 when he gave a talk about bloon at a conference on space tourism and interviewed him about near-future space tourism later that year. Today, he’ll be here for one hour to answer your questions about how you can become a space tourist, the costs, challenges, and what’s next for tourism far beyond the stars, all in the comments section below.
Hi everyone, Jose will be joining us later today, but you can begin submitting your questions below right now.
Hello Anil and all!
I’m here now.
Hi Jose, thanks for joining us and sharing your expertise in a very exciting field!
Hi Jose! I was wondering what you think the biggest challenge (other than cost) would be for someone interested in space travel? i.e. physical or mental limitations? Hope this makes sense. And thank you in advance for your insight! :))
I’ve read many articles about the extensive training that astronauts have to go through to make sure they can tolerate zero gravity and the G-forces that take them up into space. I’m very curious about what will be requited of the common person who wants to go up into space. Would I need a letter from my doctor, for instance, saying that my heart is healthy enough for such an experience?
Regarding astronauts, as true as it is that they have to train, it is also true that their training has been historically glorified by the superpowers to presents themselves as producers of the “best type of men”. Sort of the right stuff mentality.
In our case there are significant no g forces, so we will not centrifuge you 🙂
But we’ll require a letter from your physician explaining you do not have conditions that would get in the way of enjoying the flight, such as claustrophobia 🙂
From Facebook Jay Dawn asks, what is the cost, and what do you have to do to physically prepare?
It goes into an escrow account.
Not much in terms of physical preparation, it’s more mental really.
Would there be any kind of training prior?
From Facebook Steven Mak asks: how much does it cost foremost.
It’s 2 hours above 99.5% of the mass of the atmosphere for €110k. An unbeatable value proposition 😛
Hey Jose – what do you think of this contest by axeapollo ( https://www.axeapollo.com/en_EG/ )
And how much does this “space tourism company SXC” resemble real spaceships?
Jose, I’m curious, what is the current progress of the bloon and what are the latest developments?
Do you think prices will decrease with time? Also, how long does a regular ride last?
Costs will decrease, with every fligth, as economies of scale kick in. But once we start commercial ops the price will increase substantially. The peak on demand from all the folks that are now on a “wait and see mode” will not be easy to meet with our systems and we will increase the price. If you book now you know that we’ll keep the price for you. This is normal in high-end tourism, a new 5 star hotel has to offer its room at a low price to make itself known. The Russians, the only ones doing Space Tourism for the moment, have increased the price from $20M in 2001 to $70M in 2014. And they still have a 2 year waiting list.
The time at maximum altitude is 2 hours. The total ride is almost 6 hours. Two nights prior to the flight at the base are included.
I always like initiatives that bring the possibility of Spaceflight closer to the people in the street. So in that sense I like it. I do not like the male-centric approach, but that’s the general positioning of AXE/LYNX. When I see someone in an astronaut suit I do not think it’s going to be a man, it could be a woman just as well.
The vehicle that will supposedly fly the winners of the contest is called LYNX, it’s been developed by my friends in Mojave at XCOR. There is a long way to go until they start flight testing 🙂
The minibloon, the 2 seater, is almost finished. Human flights are expected in 2014. Our next uninhabited test flights will be from Cordoba, Spain in early September 2013. We are getting more and more reservations.
The Red Bull Stratos flight made my life easier, now people actually believe what we do is possible, they’ve seen it on TV! 😉
That is great! How do you get funding? (Also, any minibloon videos?) Paste the link and we’ll all watch, imagining we are in one!
This is a spherical video, you can move around using the keyboard arrows:
It takes a while to load but it’s worth it, specially near the end, while at cruise altitude:
Our funding is 100% private Spanish investors.
What is the most difficult part of your job in getting bloon from idea to reality?
Hi everyone a quick note – let me know if you’re having any issues with the chat. I’m working to resolve an issue with the comments loading…
Jose, I also remember you posting a photo on the Zero2Infinity Facebook page of your with Richard Branson. Can you tell us a little about that experience?
Here’s a video of a microbloon test flight from last November
I’m very sorry all for the technical troubles during today’s live chat. Thank you Jose for spending some of your time with us.
You can learn more about bloon on this website (http://www.inbloon.com/) and follow Zero2Infinity on Facebook and Twitter @flyabloon.
I’ll try to recover the lost comments and hope we can catch back up with you Jose at a later date to get to those questions. Thank you again everyone!
What is the material of the bloon? As far as safety goes, I am sure planning for our space junk, and small particles flying into the bloon have been taken into account. How many redundancies have been integrated into the process around the bloon material possibly being punctured and back up bloons itself? thank you
Each bit and piece of the bloon is made of the material that has less weight and the aviation authorities have certified that it can do the work. For instance, the balloon envelope (or “sail”) is made of a special type of polyethylene, the flight train (the ropes connecting the balloon to the pod) is made of Dyneema (15 stronger than steel for the same weight) and the pod itself is mostly made of carbon fiber.
Punctures on the balloon would not have much of an effect, it would just mix the outside air with the helium. The material is rip-stop and cannot pop. The chances of being hit by space debris or meteorites are similar to that of aircraft, that is incredibly unlikely to happen. If one magically cut the balloon in half, the mission would just be shorter and the system would land under parafoils, as usual, just earlier.
There are at least 2 redundancies for each critical subsystem, like in commercial airliners, and there are no catastrophic failure modes (that cannot be said of rocket based systems).
Thank you for doing this interview. It is wonderful to see an eco-Green option for space tourism out there. I am including a section of space tourism and privatized space travel in my book, and I will now include links to bloon as well. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you! I hope one day all options are Earth-friendly, the whole point is seeing how beautiful our planet is, so it has to be respectful 🙂 Let me know when your book is coming along 🙂