Near-space adventures coming via giant balloons?

When I always dreamed about going into space, it was aboard a rocket, not a gigantic balloon. A company called zero2infinity founded by one José Mariano López-Urdiales has plans to take people on near-space trips as soon as mid-decade. The goal is to use a gigantic 400-foot diameter balloon to take people to 22-miles above the earth.

Being at that height in a balloon makes me very nervous. The balloon is aptly named "bloon." The altitude the bloon is capable of is nothing compared to the 100km promised by Virgin Galactic. The bloon maker claims that the viewing experience from 22 miles over the earth is mostly the same as the view from 100 km.

Here is the cool part about the balloon ride; you get to enjoy the view for hours rather than minutes. That sounds pretty darn cool. The total trip on the balloon will last 5-6 hours with 2-hours at altitude. The bloon will carry four passengers and two pilots to altitude. The passenger pod would descend by deflating the balloon until it collapsed and then the capsule would fly to the ground on a parafoil.

[via Wired]