Space Burial: Making Skies Our Cemetery
As kids, most of us have thought of becoming an astronaut, floating in zero gravity, operating complex space shuttles and looking at our beautiful big blue planet from a distant. But most of us gave up on that thought as we grew up. While we can still take a trip to outer space to fulfill our dream, it will cost us a few million dollars. But, don’t lose hope yet, there are several companies that are willing to take you to space for as low as $1295, the only criteria is that you have to be dead.
Space burial or space funeral involves carrying of cremated ashes of a person to outer space. However, the ashes aren’t scattered in space, rather they are encapsulated into a specially designed capsule container which is integrated into a spacecraft taking them to space.
Space burial package and services
Amongst the private companies that offer the space burial service, two giants, Celestis and Elysium Space form a duopoly. They offer several packages to choose from. These packages start from $1295 for basic outer-space experiences providing five to six minutes of weightlessness and go as high as $12000 for an everlasting deep space experience. These packages also include a live broadcast of the rocket countdown and the service to effortlessly track the satellite while it orbits our planet.
Apart from the above experiences, people can choose two other experiences as well. These are the “Earth Orbit Service”- in which the remains of the deceased, orbit our planet for a limited duration before returning to earth as a shooting star and the “Luna Service”- in which the cremated remains are laid on the surface of our closest neighbour – the Moon.
People buried in space
Two Celestis mission satellites, “Celestis 03, The Ad Astra Flight” and “Celestis 04, The Millennial Flight” which were launched in 1998 and 1999 respectively are still in orbit and are expected to remain so for another 220 years. While there are several notable personalities including James Doohan (well-known for his role as Scotty in ‘Star Trek’) and Gene Roddenberry (creator of ‘Star Trek’) orbiting earth, there are only two people who have made it beyond the orbit.
The ashes of Dr. Eugene Shoemaker, a prominent astronomer, were carried by Celestis’s Luna Service 1 and rests on the surface of our natural satellite. The second person to make it beyond the orbit is Clyde Tombaugh, an American astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930. His ashes are aboard the NASA’s “New Horizons” which passed Pluto in July 2015.
The history of space burial can be traced back to the early 1930s when the idea was first circulated in a novel by Neil Ronald Jones. In 1965 movie, ‘The Loved One’, this idea was commercially projected for the first time. While several developments were made in the 1980s, the first space funeral was conducted in 1992 when NASA’s space shuttle Columbia carried few portions of Gene Roddenberry’s ashes into space.
Celestis became the first company to conduct private space funeral in 1997. Named ‘Celestis’ Earthview: The Founders Flight’, the mission carried remains of twenty-four people including Gene Roddenberry, Timothy Leary, Gerard O’Neill, Krafft Ehricke in a ‘Pegasus’ rocket which orbited the earth for 5 years before returning to Earth.
Enjoyed this article? Also, check out “Neptune Memorial Reef: An Eco-Friendly Underwater Graveyard Off the Florida Coast“.
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