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Balloons to the edge of space – when?
Among the commercial ventures currently exploring human spaceflight is a small industry dedicated to using balloons instead of rockets. Two companies, US-based World View enterprises and Spain-based Zero2Infinity are developing balloon-based services that will take passengers to an altitude of around 36 km. That's short of the 100 km line that defines actual spaceflight, but is high enough to show passengers the curvature of the earth and a new perspective on the planet we all call home.
Ballooning, the companies point out, is already a part of high altitude history. In 1931 Auguste Piccard and Paul Kipfer reached the stratosphere in a balloon, and balloons were used to set altitude skydiving records, most recently Alan Eustace's 41-km jump in 2014.
Balloons do not require the explosive power of a rocket launch, but do require helium, a resource that is becoming more and more scarce. They also require regulatory approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration before beginning flights in the United States, and similar approval from other aviation officials in other countries. Approval from the FAA would take the form of a commercial space transportation license or experimental permit. As of February 2017, only 15 commercial launch licenses are active - none for ballooning ventures.
When will a commercial ballooning venture receive approval to begin passenger flights to the stratosphere?
This question will resolve as positive when a credible news report or release issued by a national aviation agency announces regulatory approval for any commercial ballooning venture, in the form of a commercial space transportation license or permit, to conduct passenger flights into the stratosphere (above 15 km).
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Predictions are the heart of Metaculus. Predicting is how you contribute to the wisdom of the crowd, and how you earn points and build up your personal Metaculus track record.
The basics of predicting are very simple: move the slider to best match the likelihood of the outcome, and click predict. You can predict as often as you want, and you're encouraged to change your mind when new information becomes available. With tachyons you'll even be able to go back in time and backdate your prediction to maximize your points.
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Use the community stats to get a better sense of the community consensus (or lack thereof) for this question. Sometimes people have wildly different ideas about the likely outcomes, and sometimes people are in close agreement. There are even times when the community seems very certain of uncertainty, like when everyone agrees that event is only 50% likely to happen.
When you make a prediction, check the community stats to see where you land. If your prediction is an outlier, might there be something you're overlooking that others have seen? Or do you have special insight that others are lacking? Either way, it might be a good idea to join the discussion in the comments.