In the 2009 Pixar animated cartoon "Up" a widower affixes hundreds of balloons to his house and floats high above the clouds and between continents.
An idea that may sound equally preposterous is to float a very large ballooned vehicle right up to the edge of space - and then give it a boost into orbit.
On Oct. 22, the altitude record for lighter-than-air craft was broken when an airship launched from Nevada's Black Rock desert ascended to 95,085 feet. After one of two tandem balloons affixed to a 30-foot long carbon airframe burst, a command was sent to release the other balloon and the vehicle parachuted back home.
It's designers, the California-based company JP Aerospace that builds military balloons, say this is just the beginning of a plan to loft a manned station to 200,000 ft. It would serve as a gateway to low Earth orbit.
Talk about up, up and away, as the rock group The Fifth Dimension crooned in 1967.
This is a logical extension of aviation history where lighter-than-air and heavier-than-air vehicles vied for dominance of the sky. In 1783, the first aeronauts in history flew aboard a hot air balloon to an altitude of 1,500 feet. They were a sheep, a duck, and a hen.
Fast-forward to 1937 and the spectacular explosion of the passenger zeppelin, the Hindenburg. The stunning footage of Hindenburg's fiery disintegration symbolized the death of balloons for commercial aviation.
But the now-retired NASA space shuttle was the Hindenburg of the space age. Like the zeppelins, the shuttles were a limited fleet, extremely weather-sensitive, fragile, expensive, required huge ground support crews, and were ultimately retired after two deadly accidents.
In the post-shuttle era, private companies are competing to make human access to space comparatively simpler and affordable.
But it's time to think of something other than rockets for passenger travel into orbit. To me, floating up to a sky-city platform at 200,000 feet is more leisurely than being strapped into a rocket that zips you to the edge of space and back in 25 minutes. Virgin Galactic, using the suborbital private spaceplane SpaceShipTwo, is planning this quickie rocket roller coaster ride for commercial passengers.