A “world-first” bid to launch a man into space using a helium balloon in Central Australia has been thwarted by poor weather conditions.
A space capsule carrying the astronaut was due to be launched on Tuesday morning from Alice Springs by Singaporean company GoSpace.
The 650-kilogram pod was to be attached to a helium balloon that would travel “to the edge of space”, at which point a chord joining the pair would be cut, deploying a parachute.
However, in a statement released this morning, the company said the project would not be going ahead “due to high jet stream winds”.
“We cannot put our people in harm’s way. The weather is non-negotiable and our focus must always be on ensuring flight safety,” the company said.
“We are equally disappointed but we do not see this episode as a ‘failure to launch’, rather, a necessary step towards impeccable flight safety.
A diagram of the space launch, which was due to take place in Alice Springs on Tuesday (Supplied: GoSpace)
“We have had many past flight tests that were affected by weather conditions and unfortunately, Mother Nature has the last say.”
The five-year project is now on hiatus, with a second launch attempt not expected for at least another six to twelve months.
Launch could be ‘the next space internet’
Lim Seng, a Singaporean businessman, self-funded the project and said while the launch had been approved by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and NT Government, the Singapore Government was not as thrilled.
“We wanted to do this really as a national pride, but not so to compete with others,” he said.
“You cannot just depend on the government… You can do what you can do for the nation, rather than what the nation can do for you.
“The main thing is, we must not sit on our laurels. We must always look to the future.”
Mr Seng believes the project could be “the future space internet”.
However, researchers will have to wait for better weather conditions before they can put their theory to the test.
“If we are imaginative enough… we can create a one belt, one road digital up there in space, to set up a brand new internet not connecting to the ground,” he said.
“Look at it as a fifth dimension platform and then it will encourage many other people to come on and put application on this stratospheric balloon platform.”
What does it take to be a spaceman?
Around 150 candidates stepped forward to “risk their lives” for the mission, the company said.
Yip Chuang Syn, a pilot who has been flying with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) for 20 years, was ultimately picked as “spaceman”.
To take out the prized position, candidates were carefully vetted and put to the test through a series of physical and mental challenges, including parafoil jumping and diving exercises.
“He is so composed and so understanding, and I really believe of 150 people we have found the right guy,” Mr Seng said.
“[He has] the right mind, the right heart and the right guts to do this.”
Mr Seng conceded he was “probably crazy” for going ahead with the mission.
But he believes the project is more than just hot air.
“Of course I do [believe I will succeed], if not I would not do it,” he said.