Veteran NASA astronaut Ron Garan just signed on to be the chief pilot for an Arizona-based space company named World View. Which means he may be flying the first paying customers up to near space in a balloon.
World View is currently launching research and weather payloads to the stratosphere, but it is also working on sending up a space tourist.
"Ever since my first journey to space, I've felt a call to action to help spread a unique perspective of our home, this place we call Earth," Garan said in a statement.
While with NASA, Garan spent more than 178 days in orbit and flew on the Space Shuttle and Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
Tech Insider's Julia Calderone previously wrote about World View, which is working on plans to bring six passengers and two crew about 20 miles up in a fully-pressurized capsule attached to a custom balloon. Paying "voyagers," as the company calls them, can book their seat for $75,000.
Twenty miles is not quite the edge of space (generally thought to be 62 miles up), but it's still about three times higher than cruising altitude — enough to see the darkness of space and Earth's curvature.
World View Voyagers will be transported to the edge of space via a luxuriously styled pressurized space capsule (rendering)
Right now, the company says it's focused on things like forest fire detection, and gathering data to model weather and climate, since its balloons can be used like a satellite orbiting the planet — or maintain a hover over a single location for many months.
But with the private space race taking off, we may be close to seeing a non-astronaut headed into space again.
World View has said it wanted to get humans up by the end of 2016. So far, only the Virginia-based Space Adventures has launched non-astronauts into space, using Russian equipment to take them to the International Space Station.
"I am thrilled to join a team that embraces the same entrepreneurial spirit that launched the aviation industry and understands that true innovation is not just doing something that already exists better, but doing something completely new that revolutionizes or creates industries," Garan said.