French Company Offers Michelin-Star Meal 15.5 Miles Above Earth—For $130,000
Zephalto anticipates launching its first flights in late 2024.
Almost all of us dreamt of going to space as a kid: The thought of exploring the stars and planets in a puffy astronaut suit was truly exhilarating. As you got older and realized space's true enormity, your dreams may have shifted to more grounded careers and experiences. But if you're still holding out hope for a journey above the Earth, it's now a possibility. As CNN Travel reported, for $130,000, a French company called Zephalto will take you 15.5 miles in the sky, and serve you a Michelin-star meal. Read on to find out more about this new space tourism experience.
You'll be higher than 98 percent of Earth's atmosphere.
According to the company website, Zephalto is offering a "low carbon journey to space" starting next year.
Passengers will journey in a capsule, named Céleste, which is lifted by a stratospheric balloon (essentially a large hot air balloon). The capsule rises about 15.5 miles above Earth at its peak. That's much higher than an airplane, but it's not exactly outer space, which begins between 50 and 62 miles above Earth, depending on which experts you ask.
"We choose 25 kilometers [15.5 miles] high because it's the altitude where you are in the darkness of space, with 98 percent of the atmosphere below you, so you can enjoy the curvature of the Earth in the blue line. You're in the darkness of space, but without the zero gravity experience," company founder Vincent Farret d'Astiès told Bloomberg.
The six-hour journey will be a memorable experience—but it'll cost you.
The trip takes a total of six hours (1.5 hours for ascent, three hours in the sky, and 1.5 hours for descent), according to the Zephalto website. During that time, passengers can relax in one of the three cabins and "be amazed by our planet's beauty."
"The view and overall journey remains the central focus of the offering, allowing guests to appreciate and take in the beauty of their surroundings," Farret d'Asties told CNN Travel.
In addition to taking in the views of Earth, passengers are also invited to enjoy fine food and drink. However, as of April, CNN Travel reported that chefs hadn't been announced, and the company wants them to "exercise their creative license and ensure the ability to personalize the guest experience to offer something that is refined and elevated."
This means that it will be up to the chef's discretion whether meals are served in the air or before takeoff.
Sound good to you? Zephalto offers the option to pre-book for about $10,900, with the whole trip aboard Céleste totaling around $131,100. The first flights are anticipated to take off from France in late 2024, the company told CNN Travel, but pre-reservation tickets are already selling for trips slated for mid-2025.
The expensive trip may be mentally challenging.
While there's no age requirement or training required to book your flight, the company does offer something interesting with the cost of your ticket: the opportunity to talk to a psychologist.
"You need psychological preparation. We know from the 600 people who have [gone] above this altitude that seeing Earth in the darkness is an experience that can be emotional," Farret d'Astiès told Bloomberg.
Seeing the planet from this perspective can be challenging to take in, the outlet reported, citing Star Trek actor William Shatner's 2021 flight into suborbital space with aerospace company Blue Origin. Shatner told Variety that looking at Earth from above "filled him with overwhelming sadness."
Several companies are in the business of daring tourism.
Believe it or not, Zephalto isn't the only company investing in "space tourism." CNN Travel points to other large companies, including the aforementioned Blue Origin and Elon Musk's SpaceX, which is hoping to take tourists all the way around the moon.
On the other end of the spectrum—literally—attention has been hyper-focused on deep-sea tourism this week, after the OceanGate submersible went missing during an excursion to see the Titanic wreckage. As with trips aboard the Céleste, journeys advertised by OceanGate cost passengers a pretty penny, totaling $250,000.
According to Bloomberg, Zephalto will have to meet certain safety requirements before takeoff, and the helium-powered balloon will need to earn European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification, just like a commercial aircraft.
As of last month, Zephalto had completed three test flights, although none reached the full 15.5-mile distance. A test scheduled for later in 2023 is anticipated to accomplish the full journey.