Space Exploration

Want to Travel to the Edge of Space? Here's How You Can Do It

A French company is offering a round-trip experience with food and drinks

Mario Skraban/Getty Images

All of a sudden, you don't have to be an astronaut to travel to space. Or, at least the edge of space.

Zephalto, a French company, is giving passengers the opportunity to travel to the stratosphere in a balloon. The starting cost is $132,000 per person, with the first flights tentatively planned for 2025.

Zephalto founder and aerospace engineer Vincent Farret d’Astiès told Bloomberg that he's planning 60 flights a year with six passengers aboard each flight.

The entire voyage will be a six-hour round trip. Balloons filled with helium or hydrogen will depart from France with two pilots on board, rising 15.5 miles into the stratosphere for an hour and a half. Once at the peak altitude -- which is three times higher than a commercial airliner -- the balloon stays in position for three hours. The descent back to Earth takes another hour and a half.

“We choose 25 kilometers high because it’s the altitude where you are in the darkness of space, with 98% 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,” Farret d’Astiès said.

While suspended in the stratosphere, Zephalto will aim to provide passengers with the best bits of French hospitality -- including fine food, wine and design. The on-board experience will be tailored for individual customer preferences, but Zephalto plans to offer Michelin-star quality cuisine and Wi-Fi for all trips.

There's another interesting perk for guests once they pay for the trip, too. All customers will have the option to speak with a psychologist before the flight. Farret d’Astiès explained that this step could be critical for certain people, as seeing Earth from above can be a jarring experience.

“You need psychological preparation. 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,” he said, citing the overview effect. The phenomenon of seeing Earth from space can have a powerful impact.

Zephalto has already conducted three test flights with pilots on board, though none have reached the full altitude. That's expected to be achieved in a test flight later this year.

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