Near space balloon living is a future we can all share. Floating to near space costs 1/1000th as much as orbiting earth, and unlike rocketry, advances in ballooning don’t help missile makers. Do we want a space age of floating solar cities or bunker-dwelling paranoia?

I’ve been making small balloons out of thin plastics welded together with heat, glues, and tapes since 2008. I have a passion for solar hot air balloons, and got into using and designing tethered balloons for environmental monitoring and communications through Grassroots Mapping. I haven’t flown in a balloon of my own, yet.

Jake holding a 10' sphere solar balloon Teddy bear taking off on a 12' tetrahedron balloon. 20cu ft. kite balloon from a mylar sleeping bag. 12' tetrahedron balloon filling with solar hot air 1/8 scale model of a kite balloon Public Lab Balloon mapping Kit box packing instructions for the Public Lab balloon Mapping Kit flying near the Kennecott Smelter on the Great Salt Lake 12' tetrahedron balloon darkened with charcoal powder emergency sleeping bag kite balloon with foam glider wings manually scooping air into a solar balloon to fill it solar balloon takes off lifting camera in a stuffed bunny
  1. “Low cost: On the basis of a rough estimation of the basic costs of the main balloon and common equipment (excluding the on-board scientific observation instrumentation), the outlay required for a balloon experiment is at least a factor of 10 lower than that required for a small sounding rocket, at least a factor of 100 lower than that required for a large rocket and a small satellite, and at least a factor of a 1,000 lower than that required for a large satellite. Since the launch facilities are particularly basic, its operation and maintenance costs are also substantially lower.”
  • Page 12, Yajima et. al. Scientific Ballooning: Technology and Applications of Exploration Balloons Floating in the Stratosphere and the Atmospheres of Other Planets. New York 2004.