Haute cuisine: French astronaut, bound for space station, is packing Michelin-starred meals

Heavenly feasts prepared for space crew by legendary French chefs Alain Ducasse and Thierry Marx include beef tongue with truffled foie gras and duck breast confit

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 November, 2016, 2:12pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 November, 2016, 8:34pm

A French astronaut will join Russian and US counterparts blasting off Friday for the International Space Station, taking some Michelin-starred cuisine along to help celebrate in gastronomic style while in Earth’s orbit.

French space rookie Thomas Pesquet, 38, will lift off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with veteran US and Russian colleagues Peggy Whitson and Oleg Novitsky respectively, for a six-month mission to the ISS.

It will be the former airline pilot’s first trip to space - and to mark the occasion he will bring along a selection of dishes by top French chefs Alain Ducasse and Thierry Marx, including beef tongue with truffled foie gras and duck breast confit.

“We will have food prepared by a Michelin-starred chef at the station. We have food for the big feasts: for Christmas, New Year’s and birthdays. We’ll have two birthdays, mine and Peggy’s,” said the Frenchman, who is also taking a saxophone up with him.

Russia is currently the only country carrying out launches to the International Space Station via its workhorse Soyuz rocket that uses the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Pesquet, Novitsky, and Whitson were scheduled to take off at 2.20 am local time on Friday.

Pesquet has trained for seven years for his first space flight, but his crewmates both have extensive experience.

Fifty-six year-old Whitson is going on her third trip and holds the record for time in space for a female. She will assume command of the ISS after March 2017. Novitsky, 45, is going to the station for the second time.

Whitson, Nasa’s most experienced female astronaut, said the fancy French food will certainly be welcome.

“I think the thing that I find the most challenging about space flights is the lack of variety of the food,” said the US astronaut, who will command the ISS for the second time after becoming its first female commander back in 2007.

But above all she stressed the international cooperation embodied by the ISS. “I think quite the most important thing about it (ISS), it’s the demonstration of what people can do together,” she said.

Novitsky agreed. “The ISS is both a home and a place of work. It’s also a place for friendship, for showing to the world that we can work together and have good relationships,” he said.

The launch of the international trio had been postponed by two days and follows in close footsteps a previous launch in October of Russians Andrei Borisenko and Sergei Ryzhikov and American Shane Kimbrough.

That blast-off was pushed back by nearly a month due to technical issues.

Pesquet, who is the first French national to be sent to the ISS by the European Space Agency since 2008, said he still “can’t believe” he’s going to be en route to the space station soon.

“I need to be seated in the cockpit and feel the vibrations of the launch,” he said.

Technical mishaps have complicated plans to extend the periods during which the ISS is fully staffed with six astronauts.

The space laboratory has been orbiting Earth at about 28,000 kilometres per hour since 1998.

Space travel has been one of the few areas of international cooperation between Russia and the West that has not been wrecked by the Ukraine crisis.