Space Burial: Commerce and Romance

in technology •  8 months ago

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We are all gonna die someday, it is a fact, sad, but undeniable. All we can do in the end is to choose how we leave and what will become of our mortal body when our consciousness will transferred to another level of being.

However strange and fantastic it may sound, people already have access to such kind of ritual services as burial in space. Actually, such service is in demand for more than 15 years.

Of course, this process doesn’t look like it was imagined by many science fiction writers and Hollywood screenwriters. The cosmos is not filled with zinc coffins with human bodies inside, and it is unlikely that such an approach to burial will ever be acceptable. Things are much more prosaic.

The cost of space transportation is very high: $ 20,000 per 1 kg of payload (even with the latest successes of SpaceX). Therefore, many space agencies successfully cooperate with commercial organizations and lay in each rocket launch an additional place for "hidden" cargoes.

In the news of the launch of the next meteorological satellite, no one will mention that a small container with the ashes was strapped to the satellite’s board.

Such cooperation with commercial organizations allows space agencies to receive additional profits from launches and stimulates the development of private rocketry.

The most famous and reliable company that deals with sending the deceased into space is Celestis (Space Service Inc). They offer a choice of several variants of the ritual space services with different prices.

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image source

Sending the ashes of an individual person is not economically profitable, so, one container contains 100-200 capsules with the ashes of different people. Each capsule contains between 1 to 7 grams of ashes of the deceased. The service costs $ 1,295 per 1 gram. On the capsule is engraved with the name, and your relatives will receive the DVD with your last journey.

On April 28, 2007, the remains of astronaut Gordon Cooper, actor James Dugan and 200 other people made the first such trip on the rocket UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL. Perhaps in the moment when you read this article, the remains of a hundred people start into space on a rocket.

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Capsules with ashes, packing in the container. In recent years, Сelestis use their own rockets to output the capsules into low orbit image source

The company honestly reports that the capsule with ashes will not be sent outside the solar system or even further into deep space. The cheapest service involves only a temporary presence in space at an altitude of 70 miles. The capsule is placed in the discarded part of the rocket and moves with it along a parabolic trajectory, spending beyond the atmosphere only 5 minutes, and then falls to the ground.

The launch into Earth orbit will cost $ 4.995 per gram. In this case, the capsule will stay in earth orbit 10-240 years, then it will enter the atmosphere and flare up like a falling star.

Also, the site provides the service with sending the ashes to the Moon surface, the price of $ 12,500. But, as far as I know the company has not made even a single such launch. Today, all launches of satellites to the Moon are state projects, with huge budgets and important missions, which do not imply the presence of foreign cargoes.

On its website Celestis (Space Service Inc.) announces the launch of the ashes into deep space, listing the names of celebrities that have been or will be sent (I did not understand) in the framework of the Voyager program. Sounds doubtful.

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Gene and Majel Roddenberry image source

In many articles, I found information that the ashes of the creators of the TV series Star Treck (Gene and Majel Roddenberry) was sent into deep space, as a sign of respect to their creativity. It's not quite true. Ashes of Gene Roddenberry was in space twice.

In 1992, some of Roddenberry's ashes were flown into space, and returned to Earth, on the Space Shuttle Columbia mission STS-52. On April 21, 1997, a Celestis spacecraft with 7 grams (a quarter of an ounce) of the cremated remains of Roddenberry, along with those of Timothy Leary, Gerard K. O'Neill and 21 other people, was launched into Earth orbit aboard a Pegasus XL rocket from a site near the Canary Islands. On May 20, 2002, the spacecraft's orbit deteriorated and it disintegrated in the atmosphere. Another flight to launch more of his ashes into deep space, along with those of Barrett, who died in 2008, was initially planned to take place in 2009. Unlike previous flights, the intention was that this flight would not return to burn up in the Earth's atmosphere. The payload was to include the ashes of James Doohan in addition to the Roddenberrys' and several others and was scheduled to fly in 2016 on the Sunjammer solar sail experiment, but the project was canceled in 2014.At this time, it is not known if there is another mission being planned. source

To date, only two people have been honored to be "buried" outside the Earth.

Eugene Shoemaker is most famous for his discovery of Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9. He dreamed of becoming a participant in the flight to the Moon, but did not pass for health reasons. Particles of his ashes were placed on the spacecraft Lunar Prospector. July 31, 1999, the spacecraft made a planned collision with the Moon, after the completion of all work in orbit. So Eugene became the first person whose remains were buried on the Moon. His dream came true posthumously.


The remains of only one Earthman were sent even further- Clyde Tombaugh, the astronomer who discovered Pluto. Approximately one ounce of his ashes was placed in the automatic interplanetary station New Horizons, launched to Pluto in 2006. The new horizons has already completed the exploration of Pluto and moves further, towards the boundary of the solar system. Clyde Tombaugh will be the first person whose remains will leave the confines of our solar system and come out into interstellar space.

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In the framework of the law of planetary protection, we can't send organic matter in unmanaged flight into the depths of space, this can lead to disaster. However, in many works of science fiction coffins with the bodies of the dead heroes were sent to the bowels of the nascent planets or young stars. Sounds great.

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image source

But we are far from such technologies and live in a strange time when the money driven science, and the technological success of any undertaking depends on its profitability. Therefore, quite possible that the first visitors to Mars can be the dead, if it will be economically advantageous for the development of the Mars program as a whole.


sources: Celestis, Funeral in space, Naked Science, Space burial, When I Leave This Earth, images from Google Search.

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How interesting, I had no idea about this. Good information, but I prefer to be taken to the cemetery when the day comes hahaha. Greetings.

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It is quite possible that by the time the free land on our planet will be in short supply, and all will be sent into space :)

So, their ashes literally fly towards their heavenly abode :)

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Well, Catholics only a couple of years ago recognized such funerals as appropriate, other religions have such a negative. So your statement is debatable.

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I was just making a joke :)

I guess for some people this will be the ultimate exit-outta-here, but djeeees the costs on it! In the end it will only be for the selected few.

I already the aliens far far away taking the bodies and eating them as snacks or hanging them on their space walls as a trophy hahha.

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After cremation of an adult, approximately 1-1.5 kg of ash remains, so you have to spend about $1.8 million to fly into space "entirely". You are right it is only for the selected few even today.

I already the aliens far far away taking the bodies and eating them as snacks or hanging them on their space walls as a trophy hahha.

Probably they can not wait until we start sending the whole bodies :)

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$1.8 million holy crap, imagine a whole body! (Just to see how the aliens will respond hehehe)

Cool story. Odd what folks will do for their own dead body...