Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Experience Zero-G in fake space flight

Sharper Image Corp. hopes to boost its fortunes by going where no retail firm has ventured before: selling airplane flights that replicate the weightless thrills of outer space.

Sharper Image signed an exclusive agreement with Zero Gravity Corp., a company that pioneered the concept of flying passengers in a converted Boeing 727 cargo jet to mimic the weightless conditions of space travel. With fares slated to cost about $3,500, Sharper Image plans to prominently display the high-end adventure trips in catalogs, as well as in special promotions at its stores.

The partnership is the most aggressive effort so far by space entrepreneurs to try to tap into a mass market.

Describing the agreement as "the first major announcement" in a strategic plan to win back customers by upgrading products and offerings, Sharper Image Chairman Jerry Levin said that "we're obviously investing heavily in the marketing part," and that the company intends to portray the experience as the ultimate Father's Day gift. The move comes as the company, which sometimes resembles an adult toy store because of its eclectic mix of high-tech gadgets, struggles to shake off red ink, a management shake-up and a depressed share price.

According to Peter Diamandis, chief executive of Zero Gravity, the retail tie-in is intended to transform "something that NASA pioneered and demonstrated into an affordable, once-in-a-lifetime experience" accessible to everyday consumers.

As the jet flies 10,000-foot-high roller-coaster arcs, passengers briefly float and tumble inside a padded cabin as if they were orbiting the Earth or the moon. Diamandis expects the number of flights to reach about 100 a year, carrying about 3,000 passengers. (info from The Wall Street Journal)


Anonymous said...

Yeah good luck with this marketing coup! There's a reason NASA refers to its zero gravity trainer as the "Vomit Comet."

Michael N. Marcus said...

The $3,500 flight fee includes unlimited barf bags.