A Greener Way To Get Into Space: The Bloon
Images credit Bloon
Rockets can be dirty things, spewing perchlorates and other wastes. Even when they burn hydrogen and oxygen, there is a huge carbon footprint to liquifying the stuff. The Virgin Galactic will be running on a pretty clean fuel but isn't perfect.
The Bloon may be the cleanest and greenest way to get close to space. It's a giant balloon that will take passengers 36 km up at a leisurely pace.
Images credit Bloon
There's no need to rush. This is a journey of discovering and enlightenment. Travelers can have dinner, sip their favorite drink or simply relax in the warm cabin's environment with the only worry of not missing any detail of our great world and knowing that the trip not only did no harm, but helped protect her.
Then the fun begins. The helium in the balloon is vented and the capsule drops, giving passengers that weightless feeling. Then a parasail unfolds and glides to a landing, softened by the big airbags that deploy underneath.
Bloon claims that the project "has been conceived from day one to protect the environment." They write :
Absence of polluting emissions during flight operations
As bloon does not use any kind of propellant, emissions of contaminants such as CO2, nitrogen oxides NOx, CO, SO3, lead, etc are eliminated.
Use of helium as the lifting method
bloon uses helium as the lifting method. Helium is a completely inert gas without any associated risk to the environment.
No noise pollution
There are no engines in the bloon and it operates at low speeds. bloon does not generate any noise during its operation, thus enabling it to be launched from anywhere, without causing any disturbance to nearby populations.
No large infrastructures
The facility consists of an inflatable, portable structure that will hold the balloon during launch, and which can be deployed in many different parts of the world. No large buildings are required.
This is, unfortunately, the problem. Helium is in demand for superconductors and MRI machines, and the price of it is kept artificially low by the US Government which is selling off its Federal Helium Reserve. The supply is running out; Nobel Laureate Robert Richardson of Cornell University estimates that if helium was properly priced, a party balloon would cost a hundred bucks.
There may not be enough affordable helium to get this thing off the ground after 2015 when the US government is out of the helium business. More at Bloom, via Gizmag
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