Space burial

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 do not contribute to space debris. Ashes remain sealed in their small capsules until the spacecrafts burn 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.

Thunderstorms over the Pacific seen from Earth orbit on STS-64
Space burials launch cremated remains out of the atmosphere.

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.[1] It was later proposed as a commercial service in the 1965 movie, "The Loved One,"[2] and by Richard DeGroot in a Seattle Times newspaper article on April 3, 1977.[3] Since 1997, the private company Celestis has conducted numerous space burials flying as secondary payloads.[4]

Space shuttle enterprise star trek-cropcast
Gene Roddenberry (third from the right) in 1976 with most of the cast of Star Trek at the rollout of the Space Shuttle Enterprise at the Rockwell International plant at Palmdale, California, USA

First Flights

The first space burial occurred in 1992 when the NASA space shuttle Columbia (mission STS-52) carried a sample of Gene Roddenberry's cremated remains into space and returned them to Earth.[5]

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 (38,000 ft) 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.[6]

Suborbital flights

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.

Moon Burials

The first moon burial was that of Dr. Eugene Shoemaker, a portion of whose cremated remains were flown to the Moon by NASA.[7] 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.[8] 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.[7][9] 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.[7] The Lunar Prospector spacecraft was launched on January 6, 1998 and impacted the south polar region of the moon on July 31, 1999.[10]

Missions are proposed by both Elysium Space[11] and Celestis as part of a mission by Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh.

Pet Burials

In 2014, Celestis launched Celestis Pets, a pet memorial spaceflight service for animal cremated remains.[12] 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.[13]

Dedicated Spacecraft

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.

Private companies such as Celestis, Inc.,[14] Elysium Space,[15][16][17][18] Ascending Memories,[19][20], Orbital Memorials[21][22]and Aura Nova Space Limited.

Spaceflight history


Launch Date Mission Provider Launch Vehicle Destination Remains Samples Results
2018[23] 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[24] Success
May 22, 2012 Celestis Falcon 9 Earth orbit Over 300 Remains Samples[25][26] Success
August 2, 2008 Celestis Falcon 1 Earth orbit Over 200 Remains Samples[27] Failure
September 21, 2001 Celestis Taurus rocket Earth orbit 43 Remains Samples[28] Failure
December 20, 1999 Celestis Taurus rocket Earth orbit 36 Remains Samples[29] Success
February 10, 1998 Celestis Taurus rocket Earth orbit 30 Remains Samples[30] Success
April 21, 1997 Celestis Pegasus rocket Earth orbit 24 Remains Samples[6] Success
October 22, 1992 NASA Space Shuttle Columbia Earth orbit Remains sample of Gene Roddenberry[5] Success


Launch Date Mission Provider Launch Vehicle Destination Remains Samples Results
2018[31] Elysium Space Falcon 9 Lunar surface Remain Samples Planned
Not available[32] Celestis Details not available Lunar surface Remain Samples Planned
January 6, 1998 NASA Athena II/Lunar Prospector Lunar surface Remains sample of Eugene Shoemaker[7][10] Success

Deep Space

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[33] Success


Launch Date Mission Provider Launch Vehicle Remains Samples Results
October 23, 2014 Celestis SpaceLoft XL 24 Remains Samples[34] Success
June 21, 2013 Celestis SpaceLoft XL 31 Remains Samples[35] Success
May 20, 2011 Celestis SpaceLoft XL Over 8 Remains Samples[36] Success
May 4, 2010 Celestis SpaceLoft XL Over 19 Remains Samples[37] Success
May 2, 2009 Celestis SpaceLoft XL 16 Remains Samples[38] Failure
April 28, 2007 Celestis SpaceLoft XL Over 200 Remains Samples[39] Success
September 29, 2004 Scaled Composites SpaceShipOne Remains sample of the mother of SpaceShipOne's designer, Burt Rutan.[40] Success

Notable individuals buried in space

Doohan James NASA 19670413
James Doohan (left) visiting NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center with pilot Bruce Peterson April 13, 1967 in front of the Northrop M2-F2.

Launched into Earth orbit

Gordon Cooper
L. Gordon Cooper

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.[33]

Future space burials

Leiji Matsumoto - Salon du Livre Genève, 3rd May 2014 3 - cropped
Leiji Matsumoto at a book signing event in 2014


  1. ^ "The Jameson Satellite" (Amazing Stories, July 1931; Amazing Stories, April 1956 (reprint); Ace Books collection #1, 1967.
  2. ^
  3. ^ John Hinterberger: The Seattle Times Sunday Magazine, page 3, April 3, 1977.
  4. ^ "Celetis Launch Manifest". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  5. ^ a b "Shuttle bore Roddenberry's ashes". Rome News-Tribune. April 29, 1994. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Celestis Memorial Spaceflights – The Founders Flight". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d Stiles, Lorie. "Eugene Shoemaker Ashes Carried on Lunar Prospector". UA News Services, University of Arizona. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  8. ^ Porco, Carolyn. "The Eugene M. Shoemaker Tribute". Diamond Sky Productions. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
  9. ^ Porco, Carolyn C. (February 2000). "Destination Moon". Astronomy. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
  10. ^ a b Williams, David. "Lunar Prospector". NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  11. ^ Clark, Liat. "This startup will send your loved one's ashes to the Moon". WIRED UK. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Rikki King (May 24, 2012). "Dog's ashes may have been sneaked on to space flight". Everett Herald. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
  14. ^ "Celestis Website".
  15. ^ "Elysium Space Website".
  16. ^ Hamish McKenzie (August 9, 2013). "The real Elysium: Send your dead loved one into space for $2K". Pando Daily. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  17. ^ Kim-Mai Cutler (August 9, 2013). "Have A Space Burial As Elysium Sends Your Ashes into Orbit". TechCrunch. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  18. ^ Josh Ong (August 9, 2013). "Elysium Space will launch your loved ones' ashes into orbit for $2,000". TheNextWeb. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  19. ^ "AscendingMemories". Archived from the original on April 25, 2007. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  20. ^ "Chilenos crean empresa de nanosatélites que enviará cenizas de difuntos al espacio - LA TERCERA". La Tercera (in Spanish). Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  21. ^ "Orbital Memorials | Memorial Spaceflights". Orbital Memorials. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  22. ^ "UT startup Orbital Memorials launches your ashes into space - The Daily Texan". Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  23. ^ Kharpal, Arjun (May 17, 2017). "You can send your loved one's ashes into space on Elon Musk's SpaceX rocket for $2,500". CNBC. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
  24. ^ "Man's remains travel to space with NASA's Orion". Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  25. ^ Moskowitz, Clara (May 22, 2012). "Ashes of Star Trek's 'Scotty' Ride Private Rocket into Space". New York: Archived from the original on May 22, 2012. Retrieved May 31, 2012.
  26. ^ a b "The New Frontier Memorial Spaceflight". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  27. ^ a b "Celestis Memorial Spaceflights – The Explorers Flight". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  28. ^ "Celestis Memorial Spaceflights – The Odyssey Flight". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  29. ^ a b "Celestis Memorial Spaceflights – The Millennial Flight". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  30. ^ "Celestis Memorial Spaceflights – The Ad Astra Flight". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  31. ^ "Elysium Space | Launch Schedule". Retrieved May 22, 2017.
  32. ^ "Luna 02 Flight | Memorial Spaceflights". Retrieved May 22, 2017.
  33. ^ a b "NASA Launches Spacecraft on the First Mission to Pluto – New York Times". NewYorkTimes. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  34. ^ "Celestis Memorial Spaceflights – The Conestoga Flight". CelestisInc. Retrieved October 29, 2014.
  35. ^ "Celestis Memorial Spaceflights – The Centennial Flight". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  36. ^ "Celestis Memorial Spaceflights – The Goddard Flight". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  37. ^ "Celestis Memorial Spaceflights – The Pioneer Flight". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  38. ^ "Celestis Memorial Spaceflights – The Discovery Flight". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  39. ^ "Celestis Memorial Spaceflights – Legacy Flight". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  40. ^ "SpaceShipOne takes wild suborbital flight". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved April 1, 2015.
  41. ^ "Gene Roddenberry – Participant on board The Founders Flight". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  42. ^ "Gerald K. O'Neil – Participant on board The Founders Flight". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  43. ^ "Krafft A. Ehricke – Participant on board The Founders Flight". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  44. ^ "Timothy Francis Leary – Participant on board The Founders Flight". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  45. ^ "Charles Oren Bennett – Participant on board The Millennial Flight". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  46. ^ "James M. Doohan – Celestis New Frontier Flight Participant". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  47. ^ "James M. Doohan – Participant on board The Legacy Flight". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  48. ^ a b Celestis – The Legacy flight
  49. ^ "James M. Doohan – Participant on board The Explorers Flight". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  50. ^ "Luna Flight 01 – Celestis Memorial Spaceflights". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  51. ^ "Launch of Eugene Shoemaker on First Celestis Luna Mission". CelestisInc. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  52. ^
  53. ^ a b c "Celestis Memorial Spaceflights -- Participants in Future Flights". CelestisInc. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
  54. ^ "Gene & Majel Roddenberry - Participants on board a Future Celestis Memorial Spaceflight". CelestisInc. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
  55. ^ "William Reid Pogue - Participant on board a Future Celestis Memorial Spaceflight". CelestisInc. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
  56. ^ "Luise Clayborn Kaish - Participant on board a Future Celestis Memorial Spaceflight". CelestisInc. Retrieved May 19, 2015.

External links


Celestis, Inc. is a company that launches cremated human remains into space, a procedure known as a space burial. It is a subsidiary of the private space company Space Services Inc. The company purchases launches as a secondary payload on various rockets, and launches samples of a person's cremated remains. Launching an individual's entire cremated remains (which weigh between four and eight pounds) would be prohibitively expensive for most people, so Celestis launches 1 gram or 7 gram samples of cremated remains so as to provide an affordable service.

Dead on arrival

Dead on arrival (DOA), also dead in the field and brought in dead (BID), indicates that a patient was found to be already clinically dead upon the arrival of professional medical assistance, often in the form of first responders such as emergency medical technicians, paramedics, or police.

In some jurisdictions, first responders must consult verbally with a physician before officially pronouncing a patient deceased, but once cardiopulmonary resuscitation is initiated, it must be continued until a physician can pronounce the patient dead.

Death messenger

Death messengers, in former times, were those who were dispatched to spread the news that an inhabitant of their city or village had died. They were to wear unadorned black and go door to door with the message, "You are asked to attend the funeral of the departed __________ at (time, date, and place)." This was all they were allowed to say, and were to move on to the next house immediately after uttering the announcement. This tradition persisted in some areas to as late as the mid-19th century.

Death rattle

Terminal respiratory secretions (or simply terminal secretions), known colloquially as a death rattle, are sounds often produced by someone who is near death as a result of fluids such as saliva and bronchial secretions accumulating in the throat and upper chest. Those who are dying may lose their ability to swallow and may have increased production of bronchial secretions, resulting in such an accumulation. Usually, two or three days earlier, the symptoms of approaching death can be observed as saliva accumulates in the throat, making it very difficult to take even a spoonful of water. Related symptoms can include shortness of breath and rapid chest movement. While death rattle is a strong indication that someone is near death, it can also be produced by other problems that cause interference with the swallowing reflex, such as brain injuries.It is sometimes misinterpreted as the sound of the person choking to death, or alternatively, that they are gargling.

Dignified death

Dignified death is a somewhat elusive concept often related to suicide. One factor that has been cited as a core component of dignified death is maintaining a sense of control. Another view is that a truly dignified death is an extension of a dignified life. There is some concern that assisted suicide does not guarantee a dignified death, since some patients may experience complications such as nausea and vomiting. There is some concern that age discrimination denies the elderly a dignified death.

Elysium Space

Elysium Space is a space burial company. Burial options the company offers are Earth-orbit and then reentry burnup, lunar burial, and deep-space burial beyond the Solar System. The company was the first to offer burial on the Moon.

Fan death

Fan death is a well-known superstition in Korean culture, where it is thought that running an electric fan in a closed room with unopened or no windows will prove fatal. Despite no concrete evidence to support the concept, belief in fan death persists to this day in Korea, and also to a lesser extent in Japan.

Lazarus sign

The Lazarus sign or Lazarus reflex is a reflex movement in brain-dead or brainstem failure patients, which causes them to briefly raise their arms and drop them crossed on their chests (in a position similar to some Egyptian mummies). The phenomenon is named after the Biblical figure Lazarus of Bethany, whom Jesus Christ raised from the dead in the Gospel of John.


Megadeath (or megacorpse) is one million human deaths, usually caused by a nuclear explosion. The term was used by scientists and thinkers who strategized likely outcomes of all-out nuclear warfare.


NanoSail-D was a small satellite which was to have been used by NASA's Ames Research Center to study the deployment of a solar sail in space. It was a three-unit CubeSat measuring 30 by 10 by 10 centimetres (12 × 3.9 × 3.9 inches), with a mass of 4 kilograms (8.8 lb). The satellite was lost shortly after launch due to a problem with the rocket carrying it; however, a replacement, NanoSail-D2, was launched in 2010 to complete its mission.


A necronym (from the Greek words νεκρός, nekros, "dead" and ὄνομα ónoma, "name") is a reference to, or name of, a person who has died. Many cultures have taboos and traditions associated with referring to such a person. These vary from the extreme of never again speaking the person's real name, often using some circumlocution instead, to the opposite extreme of commemorating it incessantly by naming other things or people after the deceased.

For instance, in some cultures it is common for a newborn child to receive the name (a necronym) of a relative who has recently died, while in others to reuse such a name would be considered extremely inappropriate or even forbidden. While this varies from culture to culture, the use of necronyms is quite common.


An obituary (obit for short) is a news article that reports the recent death of a person, typically along with an account of the person's life and information about the upcoming funeral. In large cities and larger newspapers, obituaries are written only for people considered significant. In local newspapers, an obituary may be published for any local resident upon death. A necrology is a register or list of records of the deaths of people related to a particular organization, group or field, which may only contain the sparsest details, or small obituaries. Historical necrologies can be important sources of information.

Two types of paid advertisements are related to obituaries. One, known as a death notice, omits most biographical details and may be a legally required public notice under some circumstances. The other type, a paid memorial advertisement, is usually written by family members or friends, perhaps with assistance from a funeral home. Both types of paid advertisements are usually run as classified advertisements.

Pallor mortis

Pallor mortis (Latin: pallor "paleness", mortis "of death"), the first stage of death, is an after-death paleness that occurs in those with light/white skin.

Rigor mortis

Rigor mortis (Latin: rigor "stiffness", mortis "of death"), or postmortem rigidity, is the third stage of death. It is one of the recognizable signs of death, characterized by stiffening of the limbs of the corpse caused by chemical changes in the muscles postmortem. In humans, rigor mortis can occur as soon as four hours after death.

Sky burial (disambiguation)

A sky burial is a Tibetan open-air excarnation funerary practice.

Sky burial may also refer to:

Dakhma, a Zoroastrian open-air excarnation funerary practice

Space burial, a space-age funerary practice involving launching cremated remains into space

Sky Burial, a 2004 novel by Xue Xinran

Space-based economy

Space-based economy is economic activity in outer space, including asteroid mining, space manufacturing, space trade, construction performed in space such as the building of space stations, space burial, and space advertising.

Space-based industrial efforts are presently in their infancy. Most such concepts would require a considerable long-term human presence in space and relatively low-cost access to space. The majority of proposals would also require technological or engineering developments in areas such as robotics, solar energy, and life support systems.

Space Services Inc.

Space Services, Inc. of America is a space services company that provides star naming services as well as space burial services through its subsidiary company, Celestis. Though today it buys secondary payload space on third-party commercial rockets such as Falcon 1, Taurus, and Spaceloft XL, in the 1980s the company conducted test flights of several in-house rockets.

In 1982, their Conestoga 1 rocket became the first privately funded rocket to reach space. Their last launch attempt, a Conestoga 1620 rocket, was launched in 1995, but broke up 46 seconds into its flight. The parent company, EER, subsequently folded and the Conestoga program was cancelled.

Trailblazer (satellite)

Trailblazer was a technology demonstration satellite, which was to have been operated by the United States Air Force and the Missile Defense Agency. It was selected for launch under a "Jumpstart" contract, to demonstrate responsiveness, with the final payload being chosen less than a month ahead of the scheduled launch date, and was launched as the primary payload of the third Falcon 1, which failed just over two minutes after launch on 3 August 2008. Two previous Falcon 1 launches also failed to reach orbit, but the fourth succeeded although it only carried a dummy payload.

It was originally built for a cancelled MDA project, and was based on a SpaceDev MMB-100 satellite bus. It was launched from Omelek Island, at 03:34 GMT. Several other payloads were to be launched aboard the same rocket, including two CubeSats for NASA, and a space burial payload for Celestis, which would have remained attached to the rocket in low Earth orbit.

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