Crewed stations floating high above the Earth with huge balloons could someday act as waypoints for human astronauts headed into space. That's the vision of a DIY space program that has smashed world altitude records by sending a drone airship flying up 18 miles into the sky.
The Tandem airship soared almost four miles higher than any past airships during its record-breaking flight on the morning of Oct. 22. Its flight to 95,085 feet above Nevada's Black Rock desert marks a first step toward plans for an "Airship to Orbit" program that would fly humans into space using existing technology.
"The big aerospace firms have been trying to do this for decades, spending hundreds of millions of dollars," said John Powell, president of JP Aerospace. "We've spent about $30,000 and the past five years developing Tandem."