Memorial spaceflight fails to reach orbit



In what was reminiscent of the 1986 Challenger explosion, you can see in this video embedded in this article, an explosion only seconds into launch that caused a suborbital rocket carrying the cremated remains of 120 humans destined for earth orbit, to disintegrate and fall to earth.  The rocket was launched by Up Aerospace from Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert on May 1.


United States company Celestis has been offering “Space Memorials” since it opened in 1994.  The proliferation of non-NASA companies that launch satellites into orbit has made space available for these memorials more often and at less cost.  According to the Celestis web-site which you can see here, Space Memorials now start at only $2,495.


According to this article, the rocket involved in this mishap not only carried the remains of the 120 humans but also had a cargo of 13 payloads from the Tech Rise Student Challenge, a series of science and technology experiments from students in the 6th through 12th grades.


While this flight, named the Celestis Aurora Flight, failed it should be noted that all 120 capsules of human remains were recovered and will be offered space on the next available Celestis flight, Perseverance Flight.  Perseverance Flight is scheduled for take-off as soon as Up Aerospace and Spaceport America complete their investigation into the May 1 mishap and are deemed ready to resume flights.


According to this article on the Aurora Flight mishap, the flight was carrying the remains of “Philip Chapman, a NASA astronaut who served as the mission scientist of the space agency’s 1971 Apollo 14 mission to the Moon, as well as the remains of chemist Louise Ann O’Deen.”

Celestis has completed 17 memorial spaceflights since the 1990s, including one that impacted the Moon.


Related Article“Cremated remains of NASA astronaut recovered after failed rocket launch.”  Gizmodo


Funeral Director Daily take:  I can remember back in the 1990’s when Celestis was being formed that the cost of being memorialized in space was expected to be upwards of $10,000.  However, like a lot of things, as technology gets licenses to private enterprises, the price comes down.  We’ve all heard about the private companies that are now launching satellites into space. . . and that proliferation of the business and cost-competitiveness has driven the cost for consumers to be launched into space, through Celestis, down also.


Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

If you read me for any period of time you will know that I am an entrepreneur and all for consumer choice.  Celestis is another one of those options just like Better Place Forests, Parting Stone, Memory Glass, Eterneva, or other options for cremated remains.  Over time it is my opinion that these options, and more to come like them, will be selected in greater frequency by the cremation and alkaline hydrolysis public for their memorialization options.


Even though I believe what is said above is true about the future of memorialization, I remain a pretty traditional earth burial and/or columbarium niche memorialization advocate for human remains.  I’m a big believer in “place” for the final resting place of the deceased and don’t see how having remains “move around” whether in jewelry or other means will create a long-term lasting memorial and remembrance that a life has been lived like a monument or niche in a cemetery can do.


Last weekend I happened to stop by the local cemetery to pay respects to my mother for Mother’s Day.  While there I also had the chance to see my great-grandfather’s grave (born 1847, died 1905) and thank him for having the courage to cross the Atlantic to America (in 1872) to set up the cabinet shop that has evolved into other businesses, including a funeral home, to provide for our family for over 150 years.  I realized on that day that he would be 176 years old and his life, at least by me, was still being remembered. . . I think that is a powerful statement for permanent memorialization.


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1 Comment

  1. Danny Jefferson on May 17, 2023 at 6:41 am

    Well said Tom! I wish I been there with you to ask questions about those 157 years of memories that were stirred by visiting your Mom’s memorial place.

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