Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.

New Florida company to offer stratospheric tourist balloon flights

Capitalism in space: A new Florida company dubbed Spac Perspective plans to offer six-hour-long tourist balloon flights to altitudes of 100,000 feet for $125,000 per ticket.

“Spaceship Neptune,” operated by a company called Space Perspective from leased facilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, will carry eight passengers at a time on six-hour flights. The passenger cabin, lifted by a huge hydrogen-filled balloon, will climb at a sedate 12 mph to an altitude of about 30 miles high. That will be followed by a slow descent to splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean where a recovery ship will be standing by to secure the cabin and crew.

Test flights carrying scientific research payloads are expected to begin in 2021. The first flights carrying passengers are expected within the next three-and-a-half years or so, with piloted test flights before that.

While the company initially will operate out of the Florida spaceport, the system could be launched from multiple sites around the world, with Hawaii and Alaska near-term possibilities.

The co-CEO of this company, Jane Poynter, had been the head of WorldView here in Tucson when that company was first planning to do tourist flights like this. She got pushed out a little over a year ago as the company shifted away from tourist flights to military surveillance, only to reappear now in Florida with a new company proposing the same thing.

All power to her. I hope this new company succeeds. It is offering a product at half the price of Virgin Galactic that is actually far superior (30 miles altitude for six hours vs 50 miles for five minutes).

NOTE: 100,000 feet elevation equals 30 kilometers, not 30 miles. I think the “30 mile” number in the quote is probably a mistake.

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652


  • Max

    After start up and proof of concept, plus safety verification… Next will come The ultimate parachute drops.

  • Edward

    The article is a bit confusing. It says the cruise altitude is 100,000 feet, which is about 20 miles or about 30 kilometers, but it also says the altitude is 30 miles, which is about 50% higher.

  • Edward: Hm, you are right. I think they made a mistake and typed 30 miles for 30 kilometers. I will adjust my post.

  • Andi

    Hmmmm… hydrogen filled. I seem to recall that the last use of hydrogen for public-transport airships did not end well. Sure hope they know what they’re doing.

  • Mitch S

    Hmm, it will be interesting to see how much actual customer interest this generates.
    For me it doesn’t really compare to Virgin Galactic or other sub-orbital rides.
    I think the appeal of VG’s ride is getting to feel like an astronaut, being blasted to space on a rocket powered craft, getting to the official edge of space, getting to experience micro-gravity.
    The balloon ride offers none of that. Frankly it sounds a bit boring – 6 hours hanging out in a lounge – albeit with some nice views. Perhaps the decent is a little more exciting.

  • Mike Borgelt


    The passengers are in a pressurized cabin. Nothing they can be doing can cause the hydrogen in the balloon to ignite.
    Can we ditch the Hindenberg Syndrome, please? Particularly as the Hindenberg was covered in a thin layer of Thermite painted on the fabric covering. I’ve flown gliders like that.

  • Col Beausabre

    1) Hydrogen provides the greatest lift per weight of any gas
    2) The price of helium has taken off like – you will pardon the expression – a rocket
    3) We once had “Rockoons” – no, not rocket propelled balloons, but….

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *