Soon, it will be possible to buy a ticket to the Earth’s atmosphere. The space tourism industry is set to take off: Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipOne launches next year; Elon Musk’s SpaceX program is ramping up funding. Lesser known but in the running is World View, a luxury flight capsule that, in an estimated four years, will start taking travelers on five-hour tours through our Earth’s atmosphere.
World View was born out of Paragon Space Development Corporation, an Arizona-based company that specializes in life support infrastructure for extreme environments and wants to take civilians to near space. It’s an unprecedented move, so when Paragon approached British studio Priestmangoode about the design, it practically came with carte blanche. For their part, Priestmangoode specializes in transportation design. They’ve outfitted Thai Airways, Malaysia Airways, and Virgin with new first class cabins, and created a concept for a high speed rail. All those modes of transportation, however, are designed to get people from point A to point B as quickly and comfortably as possible. That’s not true for space travel.
Plans for the interiors are still in the idea phase, but Goode says they’ll also be designed with luxury top of the mind. Like aircraft interiors, World View’s seats need to be as lightweight as possible—even a few pounds can add up to thousands in fuel costs—so carbon fiber and ultra thin leather padding are materials candidates. The similarities might stop there: With air travel, designers are trying to make passengers forget that they’re in a metal tube. With World View, Goode doesn’t want them to forget it. “It’s got to look as though you’re traveling to space,” he says. “Every element is so the passenger feels like one of the chosen few, sitting in an environment that won’t be familiar for them.” (That said, they’d like to dispel of any cheesy futurism: “Obviously if you ask people what they expect it to be, it’s like something from 2001: A Space Odyssey,” Goode says.) There will be a bar, a snack area, and a bathroom. Pairs of seats will face the four windows, but six will need to swivel: Goode wants everyone to face the direction of travel during take off and landing.
As much as Goode wants to create the right design language for a new kind of luxury, he also needs to design for repetition: Paragon will eventually launch several World Views, each available for both tourism and professional research. The price won’t be set until the capsule nears completion, but Goode guesses Paragon will endeavor to keep it under $100,000—a pretty penny, to be sure, but a bargain compared to the $200,000 trips on SpaceShipOne.