Ashes in Outer Space
Have you thought about how you want to be memorialized? Do you want to be buried in a cemetery? Cremated and kept in an urn on your children’s mantle? Have you considered a space burial? There are many options when it comes to what to do with your remains. Some are traditional, while some are…well, unique. Some want to be turned into a statue, or living urn (see our previous post). Some want to be buried at sea. You may not have given it much thought (or maybe you have), but a space burial is an option for you. A space burial is the launching of cremated remains into outer space. The remains may orbit around the Earth, travel to planetary bodies (such as the moon), or go into deep space (definition from Wikipedia). To those concerned about pollution in outer space, the ashes are not scattered in space. The ashes are sealed inside a spacecraft until it comes back into the atmosphere and burns up, reaches its targeted endpoint (like the moon), or goes into deep space. For those who may not want their final destination to be space, some private companies take a portion of remains into suborbital flights and return them safely back to Earth.
Celestis, Inc. provides all of these options to you. Cremated remains can go into a space flight with return to Earth, launched into Earth’s orbit, land on the moon or into its orbit, or sent into deep space. They also offer the family the opportunity to watch the launch live after a memorial service, including a keepsake video. These services start at $1,295 and exceed $12,500. Elysium Space sends remains into Earth’s orbit for $1,990, or to the surface of the moon for $9,950. The prices seem small for being able to look up into the sky and see your loved one in a shooting star, or enjoying the view of Earth from the moon.
The first person to be buried in space was Gene Roddenberry, who is best known for creating the original Star Trek television series. A portion of Roddenberry’s cremated remains went into space, and returned back to Earth, on NASA’s space shuttle Columbia in 1992. Since then, hundreds of people have been buried in space in some way. The ashes of Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh will go the distance; a portion of his ashes are on their way to Pluto and beyond. Tombaugh discovered Pluto in 1930, and his ashes are inside the New Horizons spacecraft, which is on an escape trajectory from the solar system. Tombaugh’s ashes will be the first to reach interstellar space.
The next question we must consider is: how will we handle space burial if humans start to live in space? There is a lot of talk about colonizing the moon and Mars, and we have to think about how we will deal with the vast amount of space explorers who want to live the rest of their lives out in space. Will space burial become the norm?