SANTA MONICA, Calif. : As billionaire space enthusiasts blast off into space, the best most people can do is watch with envy. There is another way, however, to feel what it would be like to float in space like an astronaut at a mere US$7,500 per person for a 90-minute trip. The Zero Gravity Experience allows adventurers to flip, float, somersault and hang upside-down in the hollowed-out cabin of a Boeing 727, said Zero G Corporation CEO Matt Gohd. When the modified G-Force One plane gets to an altitude of about 24,000 feet (7,300m), the pilots start to climb, and then push the plane over the top of a parabolic arc. That leaves passengers in free fall - they feel weightless for 20 to 30 seconds until the plane descends back to 24,000 feet. Pilots repeat the maneuver about 15 times during the flight.On Wednesday, a SpaceX rocket blasted off from Florida carrying billionaire e-commerce executive Jared Isaacman and three other people he chose in the first all-tourist crew to orbit Earth. It marked the debut flight of SpaceX owner Elon Musk's new orbital tourism business. Isaacman paid an undisclosed sum to fellow billionaire Musk for the flight; Time magazine has put the ticket price for all four seats at US$200 million. Rival companies Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc and Blue Origin inaugurated their own private-astronaut services this summer, but those suborbital flights lasted just minutes. Zero G has been offering flights since 2004 and counts Virgin founder Richard Branson, Musk, astronaut Buzz Aldrin and physicist Stephen Hawking among its customers. This year, Gohd said there would be 65 to 70 flights. Amid the increased interest in space travel, Gohd expects that to rise to about 100 flights next year. "When people go up on the flight ... everybody's giggling," said Gohd about the feeling of weightlessness. "They've never felt anything like this. And they're like children again."
(Reporting by Angela Moore; Editing by Karishma Singh, Gerry Doyle and Diane Craft)