Forget rocket ships. Balloons are the next frontier in space tourism—if Zephalto has anything to say about it, that is.
The French outfit has just announced it will start sending travelers to the stratosphere in a space balloon by 2025, as reported by Bloomberg. Starting at US$132,000 (HK$1,035,228) per person, the six-hour round trip to the edge of space will allow you to enjoy unparalleled views in the lap of luxury.
Although there’s no universally agreed upon point at which space begins, the “edge” is generally considered to lie somewhere between 50 and 62 miles above Earth’s surface. Zephalto’s balloons, which will be filled with helium or hydrogen, will depart from France and rise 15.5 miles (25 kilometers) into the stratosphere over one and a half hours. Once at peak altitude, the balloon will hover for three hours to ensure you get your money’s worth. The descent takes a further hour and a half.
“We choose 25 kilometers 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,” Zephalto founder and aerospace engineer Vincent Farret d’Astiès told Bloomberg.
Zephalto is not the only company with a balloon in the space race: World View and Space Perspective are set to offer similar jaunts even sooner, in 2024. The newcomer does sound as though it is aiming for a decidedly lavish onboard experience, though.
The interior of the balloon will be brought to life by Joseph Dirand. The French designer is responsible for chic Balmain and Givenchy stores in Paris, as well as elegant restaurants Loulou and Monsieur Bleu. He’s opting for a minimalist aesthetic so as not to distract from the vistas.
Each trip will be limited to six guests, plus two pilots and crew. While in the air, guests will be served high-end French food and quaffable Gallic wines. There will be Wi-Fi, too, so you can ‘Gram the whole adventure and make your friends uber jealous. You’ll even have the chance to speak with a psychologist before the flight, as seeing Earth from such an angle can have a profound experience on perspective.
“You need psychological preparation,” Farret d’Astiès adds. “We know from the 600 people who have went above this altitude that seeing Earth in the darkness is an experience that can be emotional.”
Zephalto is planning on 60 flights a year. The team has already carried out three test flights with pilots, but no balloons have yet reached the 15.5-mile mark. Farret d’Astiès says a flight later this year should achieve this. Stay tuned.