French haute cuisine is set to reach new heights... by being served up in space!
Star chefs in France have prepared food for a French astronaut to deliver to the International Space Station.
The tinned goods will be carried up into orbit on a SpaceX Dragon capsule, whose launch was delayed on Wednesday due to bad weather.
Dishes include lobster with quinoa and dehydrated Breton seaweed, and salmon and eggplant. They are carefully constructed in cans, which are then sealed and sterilised.
Thomas Pesquet will be delivering the goods as he arrives for a six-month mission, alongside NASA astronauts Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough, and Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
The food has been prepared as part of a collaboration between the French National Center for Space Studies (CNES), the European Space Agency, Ducasse Conseil and Hénaff, which combines scientific, gastronomic and packaging expertise.
Creating haute cuisine for a microgravity environment comes with its challenges, as Lionel Suchet, deputy director-general of CNES explained.
“If we have food that is too liquid, we risk having bubbles like that which leave in the station and which can create problems, short-circuits with instruments etc.
“So we must have food where there is not this liquid which can disperse. And on the other hand, if it is too dry, you can have crumbs when you eat, and these crumbs can also be harmful because you can inhale them and therefore it can be bad for your lungs."
And no French master chef is going to allow the quality of food to be compromised by mere space-based challenges.
“All this has to fit in a little box, in perfect hygienic conditions, preserving the taste, preserving the presentation, preserving the colours, (so) that they have a total pleasure,” said chef Alain Ducasse.
"And that's why it takes work. Of course, if we had to make this food to put it on a plate, it's easier, but to find this concentration of tastes in extremely constrained conditions, that was the challenge, and that's what amused us."