Space burial refers to the launching of samples of cremated remains into space. Missions may go into orbit around the Earth or to extraterrestrial bodies such as the Moon, or further into space.
Samples of cremated remains are not scattered in space so as not to contribute to space debris. Ashes remain sealed in their small capsules until the spacecraft burns up upon re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere or reach their extraterrestrial destinations. Suborbital flights briefly fly ashes into space then return to Earth where they can be recovered. Small samples of remains are launched to minimize the cost of launching mass into space, thereby making such services more affordable.
History and typology
The concept of launching remains into space using conventional rockets was proposed by the science fiction author Neil R. Jones in the novella "The Jameson Satellite," which was published in the pulp magazine Amazing Stories in 1931. It was later proposed as a commercial service in the 1965 movie, "The Loved One," and by Richard DeGroot in a Seattle Times newspaper article on April 3, 1977. Since 1997, the private company Celestis has conducted numerous space burials flying as secondary payloads.
The first private space burial, Celestis' Earthview 01: The Founders Flight, was launched on April 21, 1997. An aircraft departing from the Canary Islands carried a Pegasus rocket containing samples of the remains of 24 people to an altitude of 11 km (6.8 mi) above the Atlantic Ocean. The rocket then carried the remains into an elliptical orbit with an apogee of 578 km (359 mi) and a perigee of 551 km (342 mi), orbiting the Earth once every 96 minutes until re-entry on May 20, 2002, northeast of Australia. Famous people on this flight included Gene Roddenberry and Timothy Leary.
Short flights that cross the boundary of space without attempting to reach orbital velocity are a cost-effective method of space burial. The remains do not burn up and are either recovered or lost.
The first moon burial was that of Dr. Eugene Shoemaker, a portion of whose cremated remains were flown to the Moon by NASA. Shoemaker's former colleague Carolyn Porco, a University of Arizona professor, proposed and produced the tribute of having Shoemaker's ashes launched aboard the NASA's Lunar Prospector spacecraft. Ten days after Shoemaker's passing, Porco had the go-ahead from NASA administrators and delivered the ashes to the Lunar Prospector Mission Director Scott Hubbard at the NASA Ames Research Center. The ashes were accompanied by a piece of brass foil inscribed with an image of a Comet Hale-Bopp, an image of Meteor Crater in northern Arizona, and a passage from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The Lunar Prospector spacecraft was launched on January 6, 1998 and impacted the south polar region of the moon on July 31, 1999.
Missions are proposed by both Elysium Space and Celestis as part of a mission by Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh.
In 2014, Celestis launched Celestis Pets, a pet memorial spaceflight service for animal cremated remains. Prior to then, a Monroe, Washington police dog may have flown on a 2012 memorial spaceflight. When this news broke, Celestis' President said that if dog ashes were on the rocket, the person who supplied the cremated remains likely violated the contract they signed with Celestis.
On May 17, 2017, Elysium Space announced the world's first memorial flight involving a dedicated spacecraft. The cubesat will be placed as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as part of a dedicated rideshare mission called SSO-A planned by Spaceflight. The launch will take place from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
|Launch date||Mission provider||Launch vehicle||Destination||Remains samples||Results|
|2018||Elysium Space||Falcon 9||Earth orbit||Remains Samples||Planned|
|November 3, 2015||Elysium Space||SPARK||Earth orbit||Remains Samples||Failure|
|December 5, 2014||NASA||Delta IV Heavy||Earth orbit||Remains sample of NASA Orion engineer||Success|
|May 22, 2012||Celestis||Falcon 9||Earth orbit||Over 300 Remains Samples||Success|
|August 2, 2008||Celestis||Falcon 1||Earth orbit||Over 200 Remains Samples||Failure|
|September 21, 2001||Celestis||Taurus rocket||Earth orbit||43 Remains Samples||Failure|
|December 20, 1999||Celestis||Taurus rocket||Earth orbit||36 Remains Samples||Success|
|February 10, 1998||Celestis||Taurus rocket||Earth orbit||30 Remains Samples||Success|
|April 21, 1997||Celestis||Pegasus rocket||Earth orbit||24 Remains Samples||Success|
|October 22, 1992||NASA||Space Shuttle Columbia||Earth orbit||Remains sample of Gene Roddenberry||Success|
|Launch Date||Mission Provider||Launch Vehicle||Destination||Remains Samples||Results|
|2018||Elysium Space||Falcon 9||Lunar surface||Remain Samples||Planned|
|Not available||Celestis||Details not available||Lunar surface||Remain Samples||Planned|
|January 6, 1998||NASA||Athena II/Lunar Prospector||Lunar surface||Remains sample of Eugene Shoemaker||Success|
|Launch Date||Mission Provider||Launch Vehicle||Destination||Remains Samples||Results|
|January 19, 2006||NASA||Atlas V/New Horizons||Deep space||Remains sample of Clyde Tombaugh||Success|
|Launch Date||Mission Provider||Launch Vehicle||Remains Samples||Results|
|October 23, 2014||Celestis||SpaceLoft XL||24 Remains Samples||Success|
|June 21, 2013||Celestis||SpaceLoft XL||31 Remains Samples||Success|
|May 20, 2011||Celestis||SpaceLoft XL||Over 8 Remains Samples||Success|
|May 4, 2010||Celestis||SpaceLoft XL||Over 19 Remains Samples||Success|
|May 2, 2009||Celestis||SpaceLoft XL||16 Remains Samples||Failure|
|April 28, 2007||Celestis||SpaceLoft XL||Over 200 Remains Samples||Success|
|September 29, 2004||Scaled Composites||SpaceShipOne||Remains sample of the mother of SpaceShipOne's designer, Burt Rutan.||Success|
Notable individuals buried in space
Launched into Earth orbit
- Gene Roddenberry (August 19, 1921 – October 24, 1991), creator of Star Trek.
- Gerard K. O'Neill (1927–1992), space physicist.
- Krafft Ehricke (1917–1984), rocket scientist.
- Timothy Leary (October 22, 1920 – May 31, 1996), American writer, psychologist, psychedelic drug advocate, and Harvard professor.
- Charles Oren Bennett (January 21, 1928 – 1999), space illustrator.
- James Doohan (March 3, 1920 – July 20, 2005), actor best known for his portrayal of Scotty in the television and film series Star Trek. Celestis also launched him into space in 2007 and in 2008.
- L. Gordon "Gordo" Cooper, Jr. (March 6, 1927 – October 4, 2004), American astronaut. He was one of the original Mercury Seven pilots in the Project Mercury program, the first manned space effort by the United States.
Buried on the Moon
Launched into outer space
- Clyde Tombaugh (February 4, 1906 – January 17, 1997), American astronomer and discoverer of Pluto in 1930. A small sample of Tombaugh's ashes are aboard New Horizons, the first spacecraft to attempt to pass by and photograph Pluto. This is the first sample of human cremated remains which will escape the solar system to travel among the stars.
Future space burials
- Leiji Matsumoto (born 1938), Japanese creator of numerous celebrated anime and manga series including Galaxy Express 999, Space Battleship Yamato and Space Pirate Captain Harlock announced his intention to have a symbolic portion of his cremated remains to be launched into space on a future Elysium Space mission.
- Majel Barrett (1932–2008), American actress who played Christine Chapel in the original Star Trek series; wife of Gene Roddenberry. A symbolic portion of both her cremated remains and Roddenberry's cremated remains will be launched into space on a future Celestis mission.
- William R. Pogue (1930–2014), American astronaut. and Luise Clayborn Kaish (1925–2013), American sculptor and painter.
- "The Jameson Satellite" (Amazing Stories, July 1931; Amazing Stories, April 1956 (reprint); Ace Books collection #1, 1967.
- John Hinterberger: The Seattle Times Sunday Magazine, page 3, April 3, 1977.
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- Aura Nova Space Website
- Celestis Website
- Celestis Pets Website
- Elysium Space Website
- Ascending Memories Website
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- http://www.argosfuneralservices.com/ Argos Funeral Services Website]