No, You Can’t Actually Eat A Michelin Star Meal in Space

Space tourism has unlocked a new brand of luxury travel, one which promises expensive meals and designer flight suits with views of Earth’s curvature as a backdrop. A Florida-based startup is offering six passengers the chance to ride on board its balloon-propelled capsule while chowing down on what it claims to be the first Michelin-starred meal in space. And, honestly, we hate to be that guy, but Space Perspective’s capsule will not reach space.

This week, Space Perspective announced a partnership with two-Michelin Star restaurant Alchemist, helmed by Chef Rasmus Munk, to host the meal on board the company’s Spaceship Neptune. The capsule will be carried off to the stratosphere while attached to a SpaceBalloon, carrying six people on board for a six-hour journey. Each ticket costs $495,000.

An illustration of Spaceship Neptune.

An illustration of Spaceship Neptune.
Illustration: Space Perspective

The giant balloon is propelled by hydrogen and rises up at a slow speed of 12 miles per hour (19 kilometers per hour), reaching an altitude of 20 miles (30 kilometers). However, space technically begins at 62 miles (100 kilometers) above the Earth, an internationally recognized boundary separating the atmosphere from space known as the Karman line.

It’s still an imaginary boundary as it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where space begins, Earth’s atmosphere doesn’t have a cut off point where it just vanishes. Instead, it gradually gets thinner with higher altitude. In order to decide on the Karman line, experts agreed that space should start at the point where orbital dynamic forces are more important than aerodynamic forces. At that point, Earth’s atmosphere alone is not enough to support a flying vehicle. For context, passenger jets typically ascend to heights of 7.9 miles (12.7 kilometers) above Earth’s surface.

Working from this definition of where “not space” ends, satellites can be positioned over different countries and it is not considered a threat, so long as it’s above that boundary of airspace.

Space Perspective does make the distinction in the fine print, recognizing that its Spaceship Neptune only reaches the edge of space. Coverage of the Michelin-starred meal, however, has touted it as being flown to space. And that’s just incorrect.

We’ve seen this type of error before when it comes to space tourism, and, frankly, it really gets under our skin. Similarly, Virgin Galactic’s Unity spaceplane flies its passengers to a maximum altitude of 54.2 miles (87 kilometers). That’s a little closer to actual space, but, still, it’s not quite space.

The edge of space still offers some stunning views, and the passengers on board Space Perspective’s Neptune will be dressed in custom-made outfits by French fashion house Ogier, and will get to enjoy a private bathroom with large windows. The capsule is also pressurized, so it’s meant for passengers to be able to walk around. That’s a much different experience than that of astronauts on board the International Space Station, floating through microgravity while donning the traditional white spaceflight suits and squeezing pureed meat out of a package. They’re doing that in actual space though, so it’s still pretty cool.

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