Researchers from the University of Surrey have launched a campaign on Kickstarter that aims to enable the public to ‘travel’ to space for the cost of a pair of trainers.

The academics want to raise £30,000 on the crowdfunding platform to develop virtual technology and a customised spacecraft that could be used to give the public a three-dimensional, immersive experience, allowing everyone to see what astronauts experience on an ascent to space.

The project, known as Virtual Ride to Space, will only come to fruition if the team can reach their target figure of by 3 April. So far it has been backed by 21 pledges amounting to £2,699. If the target figure is not reached then the researchers will not receive any of the funding that has been pledged. 

In order to create the space travel experience, the team plan to capture HD footage of space, via a weather balloon, which will carry a cluster of twenty-four Go Pro cameras to a height of 20km  twice the height of a commercial airplane. During the ascent to space the cameras will capture panoramic footage of the balloon’s journey.

The payload, which will fall back to earth when the weather balloon bursts, will also contain an Arduino microcontroller, a GPS receiver, a magnetometer, a gyroscope, a pressure sensor, a battery pack, and a hand warmer to protect the electronics from the temperatures in the upper atmosphere, which can fall as low as -55°C. 

Once the payload has been retrieved, the academics will recreate a panoramic view of the space trip by stitching the footage together with video editing software.

The subsequent space ride will then be viewed using Oculus Rift, a “state-of-the-art” virtual reality, head-mounted display.

The system is designed to deliver high definition 3D virtual environments that can be explored by the wearer, as if they are in space  themselves.

“Only 530 people have ever travelled to space. For most of us it’s a distant and very expensive dream but this project is about enabling the remaining 99.999992% to see the world like never before,” said lead researcher Dr Aaron Knoll from the University of Surrey.

“Ride to Space will give all aspiring astronauts the chance to be a virtual passenger, riding the balloon to space, and unlike other Galactic flights, it won’t cost the earth to be on board.”

The project team is also developing a smartphone application that will allow users to experience the journey using the phones’ built-in gyroscope and accelerometer data, as well as a computer programme that will allow users to experience space via their PCs.