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This was inspired by Project Man High where the U.S. Air Force tested high altitude parachuting. I actually have two ideas related to that.
1) Strap a high altitude balloon to a skydiver (who would have an appropriately designed space suit) and let him go. When he gets to the right altitude he can
pull a release that would seperate him from the balloon and begin his skydiving adventure. Maximum altitude of maybe 35km.
2) An "external" capsule. This would be a design where the passengers (maybe 4 or 5) would sit on the outside perimeter of a transport, in the center of the transport would be a rocket. The rocket powered transport would be lifted to a high altitude by a balloon and then the rocket would be ignited to take the transport to the official 100km "space limit". The passengers would basically go straight up, there wouldn't be any attempt to go into orbit or sub-orbit. Gravity would pull the transport back to Earth and parachutes deployed to slow the descent (maybe need retrorockets too).
Man skydives with turbine engines strapped to his feet.
Not what you were talking about but vaguely related and pretty damn cool. [hidden truths, Aug 12 2006]
Man High - the man who made the jumps
Here a little description of the man who made the jump. [s1n4m1n, Aug 13 2006]
130,000 feet (40km)
[Shz, Aug 14 2006]
Baking as we speak (see page 2) [BunsenHoneydew, Oct 03 2007]
MOOSE - Manned Orbital Operations Safety Equipment
Maybe this will help. [quantum_flux, Oct 05 2007]
||How is idea 1 different from Project Man High?
||Idea 2 is incredibly dangerous and expensive, but sounds feasible-ish. You would need retrorockets to stop you breaking up in the stratosphere, but there's nothing stopping you doing that so long as you have a huuuuge rocket with enough fuel for a big burn in each direction.
||Project Man High utilized a gondola, but your right, idea #1 is basically Man High for the citizen.
||Idea #2 would be expensive and dangerous. Yet there are many people willing to pay large amounts of money to say they've been in space. I think once the system was shown to be reliable the "dangerous" aspect of it would decrease.
||That's odd - I did this one before, but now I can't find it...
||Cool --- am pretty sure I will never do anything like this though...
||*sigh* We really need to get some venture capitalists in this joint [link]