zero2infinity Acquires Dick Rutan’s Gondola for High-Altitude Bloon Project

Bloon flight profile. (Credit: zero2infinity)

A capsule built by Dick Rutan for the purpose of making the first non-stop, around the world balloon flight has found a new home in Barcelona with a company planning near-Earth balloon tourism.

The company zero2infinity has purchased Rutan’s pressurized World Quest gondola for use in its Bloon project. Bloon’s experience will consist of a four-hour trip up to an altitude of 36 kilometers (58 miles) in a capsule that will provide spectacular views of the Earth.

Appearing at the Spacecraft Technology Expo in Los Angeles on Tuesday, zero2infinity Founder Jose Mariano Lopez-Urdiales said he had been in Mojave the day before to get the capsule. He said the company plans to modify the gondola for use with Bloon.

The World Quest capsule was built for Rutan’s second attempt to circle the world in a balloon. In 1998, an attempt by Rutan and Dave Melton failed only hours into the flight after the balloon reptured. The crew bailed out, but the vehicle was lost.

Rutan vowed to try again and built the World Quest gondola. However, he abandoned the effort after a rival team made the first non-stop, round-the-world trip in a balloon in March 1999. The capsule has been sitting in Rutan’s hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port ever since.