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Forget rockets. Why not glide to space?

Forget rockets. Why not glide to space?

If you want to get higher than 90,000 feet in our atmosphere, you have a few options. A weather-type balloon will do it easily, but you don't have a lot of control once you're up there.

A rocket or a rocket-powered plane can do it, but it's dangerous, expensive and you can't stay up for long unless you're headed for space. Now a non-profit group called the Perlan Project thinks it has a third way that doesn't require any power and gives plenty of control.

It's called the Perlan 2 and it's a glider. That's raised some eyebrows considering the group is shooting for an altitude of 90,000 feet, and the current glider record is just under 51,000 feet.

There's also the fact that at 90,000 feet, the air is only 2% the density of the air at sea level. To overcome the thin air, the Perlan 2 has an 84-foot wingspan and only weighs 1,800 pounds, including the two crew members. Of course, that still raises the question of how it will get up there.

The plan is to have another plane tow it up to a decent altitude, then release it, like a normal glider. Also like a glider, the crew plans to take advantage of updrafts from land features to stay aloft. However, in this case, they're going to use atmosphere mountain waves.

These are huge updrafts that exist perpendicular to mountain ranges. They can extend up into the stratosphere, which is where the Perlan wants to go. Once up in that region, the Perlan 2 will use scientific equipment to study the weather up there and its effects on the atmosphere beneath it.

The Perlan 2 is scheduled for a test flight this year, which will only see it going to 5,000 feet. If that goes well, it will attempt 90,000 feet in July 2016.

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