Very topical.

I wasn’t expecting balloons to make a big comeback in 2023 but here we are talking all about them. And while they’ve certainly shown their effectiveness at dubious surveillance and intriguing UFO researchers, it’s important to remember the enormous recreational potential of gasbags.

That’s where Hokkaido startup Iwaya Giken comes in. On 21 February they opened applications for special tours of the Earth’s stratosphere in which travelers can float 25,000 meters (15 miles) into the sky on a balloon.

▼ These tours are a part of the engineering firm’s wider Open Universe space tourism project

The company has designed a special capsule that seats two for the journey. The T-10 Earther is made with a special plastic designed to handle the extreme temperature and pressure changes that occur with such a rise and also has a charming Tie-Fighter cockpit feel about it.

The initial rise takes two hours, after which about an hour is spent floating well above the altitude of commercial flights. Here you can see both outer space and the curvature of the Earth, making it the perfect gift for that special flat-earther in your life.

▼ Aw, who are we kidding? They’d probably just blame it on the round window.

Afterward, the 40-meter balloon descends and plops your capsule safely in the ocean for retrieval. The price is expected to be around 24 million yen (US$176,000) per person and flights are hoped to begin around December of this year.

A project of this scope had to have taken years of research and development, meaning that the timing of this announcement and the recent spate of news regarding high-altitude balloons being shot down must be largely coincidental. As a result, it seemed that only a few of the people who left comments online were keen to try it out.

“I’m not afraid of heights, but that’s a little above and beyond.”
“I wouldn’t go even if someone invited me and offered to pay.”
“Balloon? Aren’t those the things getting shot down recently?”
“This actually looks more fun than those other space rockets.”
“I don’t want the last thing I ever see to be a sidewinder missile.”
“Timing is everything.”
“Isn’t that what the Saiyans ride in?”

Granted, floating about in the airspace that North Korea likes to use as a missile shooting range is a little worrisome. On the other hand, it would be really cool to get a perspective on the world that few people ever have a chance to see firsthand.

I’ll let you know how it goes once SoraNews24 approves that 24-million-yen raise I requested. Fingers crossed!

Source: PR Times, NHK News Web, Hachima Kiko
Images: PR Times
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