Is there such a thing as sustainable space tourism? Is “tourism” even the best word to describe such an extraordinary experience? There are several carbon-neutral companies preparing to take travelers to the edge of space. One company, Space Perspective, founded by a husband and wife who were part of the Biosphere 2 crew, plans to send travelers not in rockets, but gentle, slow-moving hot-air balloons. The journey is being described as “the first luxury spaceflight experience,” complete with comfy seating and mood lighting. In short, a sort of “transcendental cocktail party in the sky.” Is this a noble effort to create a more eco-friendly and accessible alternative within the burgeoning space tourism industry? Or is it merely packaged to seem this way?

Poynter describes each flight as bespoke to the preferences of the eight passengers on board, with menus, music, and lighting customized to specific tastes. At $125,000 per ticket for a six-hour flight, the price is clearly geared toward a certain clientele, but the cost is significantly less than flying with Blue Origin or SpaceX. And even though few people I spoke with at the Zero Bond event left committed to Space Perspective that evening, enthusiasm is there: As of August 2022, almost 900 tickets for flights have been purchased. Poynter and MacCallum soon noticed that half the tickets sold were to groups that booked the entire capsule, which is when they realized that whatever kind of experience nosing toward outer space may be, it’s one that people want to share.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.