Who has not ever dreamed of traveling to space? The idea of floating in zero gravity, seeing Earth from afar, and exploring the unknown is exciting. Until now, however, space tourism has only been within the reach of the ultra-rich. But that’s about to change thanks to an innovative Japanese company.
Iwaya Giken: the democratization of space tourism
Iwaya Giken, a company based in Sapporo, in northern Japan, wants to make space tourism accessible to everyone. With its “Open Universe” project, the company has designed a cabin with capacity for two people and a balloon that will rise to about 20 km above the surface. The cockpit will hold a pilot and a passenger, and best of all, no special training is needed, as this is not a rocket or space plane.
The company has been working on this project since 2012, and it has finally come to fruition. The balloon, filled with helium gas, will lift the drum-shaped cabin (with a diameter of 1.5 meters) into the air. You will take off from Hokkaido and it will take around two hours to complete the ascent. You will then stay there for an hour to view the curvature of the Earth and the celestial void before descending for an hour to return home.
Accessibility and prices
Iwaya Giken’s “Open Universe” project is very interesting because it democratizes space tourism, which means it becomes more accessible to ordinary people. Although the starting price of 24 million yen ($180,000) is still unaffordable for many, the company hopes to bring it down to a five-figure price in the near future.
It is important to note that there are other players in the space tourism industry, such as World View Enterprises and Space Perspective, who offer different options at different prices. Arizona-based World View Enterprises is developing a stratospheric balloon tour for a price of around $50,000 per person. The Space Perspective option is more expensive, as it will transport passengers into the stratosphere in luxury and comfort for $125,000 per person.
How to request a place in the space cabin?
Iwaya Giken is accepting applications for the space cabin ride through the end of August. The first five passengers will be announced in October 2023, and the five flights will be separated by several weeks and will be subject to weather conditions.
You can see photos and details at open-universe-project.jp and yankodesign.com.