If you’re looking for a more futuristic way to say goodbye to your loved ones, why not blast their remains into space? That is exactly the funerary service that’s been catching on thanks to private ventures like Elysium Space and Celestis, Inc. For just under two-thousand dollars, you too can send off a “symbolic portion” of a loved one’s ashes into orbit.
After your loved one’s ash sample is loaded into a tiny capsule, the capsule is attached to a spacecraft along with those of others paying for service. The spacecraft will be launched into orbit and remain in orbit around the Earth for several months, before re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere and burning up as a “shooting star,” a poetic end for any space enthusiast.Family and friends of the deceased will be able to track the spacecraft’s location at any time via Apple and Android phone apps
April 21st 1997 saw the very first official Space Burial service, a Pegasus Rocket loaded with the ash samples of twenty-four people launched into space and settled into orbit. Since Celestis, Inc.’s founding in 1997 they have even sent the ashes of a few famous people into orbit, such as Timothy Leary, Gene Roddenbury (the creator of Star Trek), and James Doohan (Scotty from Star Trek) just to name a few.
However, perhaps the most famous (and not to mention, furthest traveling!) space burial belongs to Clyde Tombaugh, the astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930. In 2006, NASA launched New Horizons, a spacecraft that would take a nine-year journey to the outer edges of the solar system, to none other than Pluto. And on board? A small sampling of Clyde Tombaugh’s ashes. New Horizons and Tombaugh are expected to reach Pluto by 2015.
The Space Burial seems to be in line with the more modern trend of celebrating the deceased’s life rather than adhering to staunch religious dogma. It offers the sweet ideal of a loved one becoming a “shooting star” in the night sky, and offers the chance to send the less religiously-inclined back to space, to our stellar origins. As Carl Sagan once famously said “we are made of starstuff.” Ashes to ashes, stellar dust to stellar dust.