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Eating a Michelin-star-level meal on the “edge of space” could be a reality next year, if French company Zephalto has its way.
The space tourism venture, founded by former air traffic controller Vincent Farret d’Astiès, is currently selling “pre-reservation tickets” for upcoming trips in a pressurized capsule, dubbed Celeste, attached to a stratospheric balloon.
This capsule will ascend to an altitude of 25 kilometers (about 15.5 miles), allowing guests to marvel at the curvature of the Earth. In between gawping at views, travelers will be wined and dined in style.
Pre-reservation tickets are going for 10,000 euros (roughly $10,900) and give purchasers a chance to reserve a seat whenever tickets go on sale. All in all, a trip on Celeste will set you back 120,000 euros (around $131,100).
Zephalto told CNN Travel that seats on board the first flights from late 2024 to mid-2025 have already been scooped up, and they’re now selling pre-reservation slots for mid-2025 onwards.
Celeste promises to ferry six passengers and two pilots to maximum altitude in just 90 minutes, at a speed of four meters per second. The capsule will then float above Earth for three hours – plenty of time to enjoy a multiple-course meal and several glasses of fine French wine.
Farret d’Astiès told CNN Travel that while Celeste’s food and beverage options will be luxurious, “the view and overall journey remains the central focus of the offering, allowing guests to appreciate and take in the beauty of their surroundings.”
Since Dennis Tito, the first ever “space tourist” hit the skies in 2001, few have followed in his footsteps. But in recent years, high-profile space tourism companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic have been making moves in this arena, vowing to make space the next must-visit vacation spot.
Zephalto, founded in 2016, isn’t the only company hoping to transport passengers in a fancy hot air balloon. Floridian company Space Perspective is currently taking reservations for its Spaceship Neptune.
It’s worth remembering there’s a big difference between a trip to orbital space – involving gravity-busting high-speed takeoffs and longer duration – and suborbital space, in which travelers are briefly exposed to weightlessness and views of space during a flight to the edge of the atmosphere, 60 miles above Earth.
And trips to the “edge of space” – like those proposed by Zephalto and Space Perspective – are different again.
These capsules won’t actually hit suborbital space, but will still fly significantly higher than your average commercial airplane. That means great views of the Earth and the stars, but without the loss of gravity and the accompanying feeling of weightlessness.
Farret d’Astiès likes the atmosphere inside Celeste as the same as traveling by plane, just with more incredible views and luxurious vibes. The interior of the pressurized capsule is currently being planned by French designer Joseph Dirand. Designs have yet to be released, but Zephalto promises they’ll exude “French savoir-faire.”
While Celeste’s prospective chefs have yet to be announced, the idea is there will be a rotating door of culinary masters who’ll have free reign to choose what’s on the menu. Zephalto is keen that “chefs are able to exercise their creative license and ensure the ability to personalize the guest experience to offer something that is refined and elevated” – so some chefs may decide what dining should happen before, rather than during, the journey.
Zephalto says it has also been working closely with France’s space agency, CNES, on the project and counts aviation company Airbus as one of its partners. The company says the balloon, which be powered by helium, will be required to have the same European Aviation Safety Agency certifications as a commercial aircraft.
Zephalto says it has completed three piloted partial test flights, with another scheduled for later this year which is set to undergo the full journey. Flights will be open to people of all ages, and no prior training is needed.
For now, Celeste is planning to take off from France, but Zephalto hopes to go global before long.