Space burial

Space burial

Space burial is a burial procedure in which a small sample of the cremated ashes of the deceased are placed in a capsule the size of a tube of lipstick and are launched into space using a rocket. As of 2004, samples of about 150 people have been "buried" in space.Fact|date=May 2008

Technical and economical aspects

The effort and cost of launching an object into space is very high. Furthermore, the cost is directly related to the payload, i.e. the mass of the object. Therefore various measures are taken to reduce the mass of the burial, which usually include:

*The corpse is cremated, reducing the mass of the remains to about 5% of the initial mass (a few kilograms).
*Only a small sample of the ashes is included, typically only 1 g or 7 g. The remainder of the ashes can be buried conventionally in the earth or in the sea.

Other measures to reduce cost include:

*No rockets are specifically launched for this purpose; the samples of the remains are just part of the payload.
*Multiple remains are buried with the same rocket, although usually the remains are in separate capsules.

The capsules are kept together in a flight container, e.g. attached to the upper stage engine of the rocket, to avoid additional "space debris".

The second factor greatly influencing the cost includes the target location of the payload. Most burials do not actually leave the gravitational field of the earth but only achieve an orbit around earth. The capsules containing the samples of the remains circle the earth, until the upper layers of the Earth's atmosphere have slowed down the capsules, and they reenter the atmosphere. The capsules burn up upon reentry similar to a shooting star, and the ashes are scattered in the atmosphere. The time between launch and reentry depends on the orbit of the satellite, and can vary widely. The first burial reentered after only 5 years, but other burials are not expected to reenter in less than 250 years.

thumb|right|NASA’s_Lunar_Prospector_space_probe_carried_the_remains_of_Dr.Eugene Shoemaker]

There are a number of alternative options if a reentry into the earth atmosphere is not desired. All of them are more complex and expensive than a burial in earth orbit. If an object leaves the gravitational field of the earth, it enters the gravitational field of another body in space. The closest object near the earth for that purpose is the moon. Although the moon is technically also in the gravitational field of the earth, it will not hit the earth within any human timeframe. A service is available for space burial on the moon. As of 2005, the only person buried this way is Dr. Eugene Shoemaker, (April 28, 1928 - July 18, 1997), best known for co-discovering the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.

If the moon is still too close, it is possible to launch the remains into outer space, although this is the most costly space burial currently available. In January 2006, the cremated remains of Clyde Tombaugh, (February 4, 1906 - January 17, 1997) who was best known for the discovery of Pluto, were sent on the New Horizons, a Robotic NASA Spacecraft similar to Voyager which will go beyond Pluto [] .


The practice of space burials is a very recent practice due to the technical difficulties involved in launching an object into space. The very first space burial "Earthview 01: The Founders Flight" was launched on April 21, 1997. An aircraft carried a modified Pegasus rocket containing samples of the remains of 24 people to an altitude of 11 km (38,000 ft) above the Canary Islands. The rocket then carried the remains on an elliptical orbit with an apogee of 578 km (361 miles) and a perigee of 551 km (344 miles), rotating around earth once every 96 minutes until reentry on May 20, 2002, northeast of Australia. Famous people buried on this flight were Gene Roddenberry and Timothy Leary.

The second space burial was the burial of a sample of the remains of Dr. Eugene Shoemaker on the moon by the Lunar Prospector probe, launched on January 7 1999 by a three-stage Athena rocket. The probe containing scientific instruments and the ashes of Dr. Shoemaker impacted the moon near the lunar south pole on 4:52 a.m. Central Daylight Time, July 31, 1999.

The list of space burials to date:

*April 21, 1997: 24 remains samples launched into earth orbit on a modified Pegasus rocket
*January 7 1998: Sample of the remains of Eugene Shoemaker as secondary payload on a three-stage Athena rocket to the moon
*February 10, 1998: 30 remains samples as a secondary payload launched into earth orbit on a Taurus rocket
*December 20, 1999: 36 remains samples as a secondary payload launched into earth orbit on a Taurus rocket
*September 21, 2001: 43 remains samples as a secondary payload failed to be launched into earth orbit on a Taurus rocket
*January 19, 2006: Sample of the remains of Clyde Tombaugh on the New Horizons spacecraft launched by a Atlas V rocket to Pluto
*2008-08-03: 208 remains samples flown as a secondary payload lost in the failure of a Falcon 1 rocket. [ [ Spaceflight Now - Falcon 1 suffers another setback] ]


Currently, only one company, "Space Services Inc.," offers space burials. Space Services took over the assets of Celestis, Inc., which launched four flights from 1997 to 2001. As science progresses it is expected that the cost and difficulties of space burials will be reduced, and other companies may enter the market.

As of 2006, only cremated remains have been buried.

Full body burial

To date, the notion of sending an intact human corpse into outer space for burial is simply too expensive and complex to be feasible.

Religious aspects

At least one service for burial in space was planned. As part of the contingency plans for the Apollo 11 mission, if the astronauts were unable to return from the lunar landing, a funeral service would be held for them on Earth, similar to the service for burial at sea, with references to the ocean omitted and replaced with "the deepest of the deep." ("See In Event of Moon Disaster")

It should be noted, though, that most religions do not provide special instructions for space burial due to the procedure being only a recent development, and only around 150 people have been buried in space so far. As only a small portion of the remains are buried, a regular funeral and burial ceremony can be performed according to the beliefs of the deceased, and only a small part of the remains are diverted into space. Due to the infrequency of the flights, the sample of the remains have to be stored until the next launch. Also, not all religions allow the bodies of deceased to be cremated, as is often done in space burial.

Famous people buried in space

Launched to Earth orbit on April 21, 1997

*Gene Roddenberry (August 19, 1921 - October 24, 1991), creator of "Star Trek".
*Gerard O'Neill (1927-1992) space physicist.
*Krafft Ehricke, (1917-1984) rocket scientist.
*Timothy Leary, (October 22, 1920 - May 31, 1996), American writer, psychologist, and drug campaigner.

Buried on the moon on July 31, 1999

*Dr. Eugene Shoemaker, (April 28, 1928 - July 18, 1997), Astronomer and co-discoverer of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.

Launched to Earth orbit on December 20, 1999

*Charles Oren Bennett (January 21, 1928-1999), space illustrator

Launched in outer Space on January 19, 2006

*Clyde Tombaugh (February 4, 1906 – January 17, 1997), American astronomer and discoverer of Pluto in 1930.

Launched sub-orbitally and recovered on April 28, 2007

*James Doohan, (March 3, 1920 – July 20, 2005) actor, best known for his portrayal of Scotty in the television and movie series "Star Trek" [ Celestis - The Legacy flight] ]
*Leroy Gordon "Gordo" Cooper, Jr. (March 6, 1927October 4, 2004), an American astronaut. He was one of the original Mercury Seven pilots in the Project Mercury program, the first manned space effort by the United States.

Fictional characters buried in space

In science fiction, dead characters are sometimes buried in space, by analogy to the naval tradition of burial at sea.

* Hawk Hawkins, in the movie Space Cowboys, died on the moon. Hawkins, after personally making sure an out-of-control nuclear satellite was steered out of Earth's way, managed to land on the Moon and, sitting against a boulder, gazed at the Earth until his air ran out.
* Robert A. Heinlein's 1940 short story "Requiem" describes how the industrialist Delos D. Harriman who funded the first flight to the Moon but was never allowed to fly there himself finally gets there as an old man, dying after landing. He is buried there with Robert Louis Stevenson's "Requiem" for the epitaph.
*Captain Spock, from "Star Trek", was buried in an empty photon torpedo casing and fired onto the rapidly forming Genesis planet, which initiated his rebirth.
*Captain Future, the hero of the Edmond Hamilton stories with the same name, received a space burial. However, later it was revealed that Captain Future is still alive, and a Doppelgänger has been buried instead.
*Ovaron, a character of the "Perry Rhodan" series, is buried in space in Volume 722: "A Message for Ovaron".
*Breckcrown Hayes, a character of the "Perry Rhodan" series, is buried in space in Volume 1048: "Atlan's Return".
*Space burials feature in the Doctor Who stories "The Ark"
* Frank Poole in ', is killed during extra-vehicular activity and dragged off to space by an uncontrolled capsule, so he isn't actually buried; he is revived after his drifting body (apparently still partly alive) is found in '. However David Bowman buries in space several other crewmembers whom the HAL 9000 killed during revival from hibernation.
*A space burial for Philip J. Fry, delivery boy, appears in "Futurama" episode "The Sting", but only in Leela's extended dream sequence.
*Philip J. Fry, II, the first person on Mars in the "Futurama" episode "The Luck of the Fryrish". He is named after his uncle, listed above. However, his burial was in a conventional graveyard in a space station named Orbiting Meadows National Cemetery.
*Lieutenant John Kelly, a minor character on "". He was the commander of the ill-fated Ares 4 mission to Mars. Lieutenant Kelly disappeared on October 19, 2032, captured by a graviton ellipse and died on board his spacecraft on October 25th. Kelly's body was retrieved by the crew of the USS Voyager and buried in space circa stardate 53301.2 in 2376.
*Numerous other "Star Trek" characters have also been buried in space.
*Christopher "Maverick" Blair, in the original "Wing Commander", is given a space burial if killed during a mission.
*Kane, from the movie "Alien" is buried in space, being the first human killed by the creature.
*In "Babylon 5", multiple characters are given space burials by having their caskets sent into a star. The ritual always ends with the quote, "From the stars we came, and to the stars we return, from now until the end of time. We therefore commit this body to the deep."
* S.R. Hadden, owner of Hadden Industries, is buried in space after dying of cancer on Mir in the film "Contact". This is different from the book the movie is adapted from, where Hadden is not terminally ill and voluntarily chooses to leave earth in a space-bound "casket" while still alive. The "casket" is actually a small spacecraft capable of leaving Earth orbit for deep space, although the lack of any kind of superluminal propulsion means Hadden will undergo cryogenic hibernation to allow him to survive the thousands of years needed to cover interstellar distances.
*The entire crew of "Red Dwarf", following the radiation disaster except for David Lister. The first burial shown on the show was George McIntyre.
*The multiple hero Ace Rimmer's remains form a ring of coffins and deactivated hologram transmitters around a planet in the "Red Dwarf" universe.
*Dizzy Flores, a character from Paul Verhoeven's "Starship Troopers", is buried in space with full military honors after dying from a bug attack.
*A military space funeral parlor is depicted in "Enemy Mine" in which human remains from Human-Drac wars are routinely and irreverently disposed of.
*In "", the Spartans that did not survive the genetic enhancement procedures are launched into space.
*Captain Paolo Cassius, the original White Base captain in "Mobile Suit Gundam" (his burial is shown in the TV series but not the movie compilations.)
*A very realistic space burial scene is depicted in the 1955 film "Conquest of Space" after a crewmember is killed by a meteor fragment.
*Alexei Stukov, a character from "", is buried in space in a coffin.
*Maxwell Plein, father of The Bicykid (Marvus Plein) is buried on the moon in the "Bicykids" comic series.
*Burial in space is also part of the plot of the movie version of "The Loved One".
*In the end of Isaac Asimov's novel Forward the Foundation it is briefly mentioned that the main protagonist, Hari Seldon, was buried in space.
*In the animated sitcom Family Guy, Stewie buries his stuffed bear, Rupert, in space. (In a parody of Spock's burial in "")
*In the epilogue of the anime film Arcadia of My Youth, Captain Harlock's beloved Maya along with Tokargan ally Zoll and Mira (the last Togargan female) are buried in space. Harlock's eulogy translated (from Japanese) as "Sea of stars, we leave our loved ones in your hands in the hope that truth is governing this sea."

pace disasters

The list of space disasters shows that four cosmonauts and 15 astronauts have perished in flight as of 2006.

* Soviet Air Force Colonel Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov crash-landed following a parachute failure aboard his Soyuz 1 spacecraft on April 24, 1967.
* U.S. Air Force test pilot Major Michael J. Adams was killed November 15, 1967 when his X-15-3 research aircraft began to spin on re-entry and descent and disintegrated near Randsburg, California. Maj. Adams was posthumously awarded astronaut wings for his last flight in the X-15-3, which had attained an altitude of 266,000 feet (81.1 km) [ [ - The Crash of X-15A-3] ] .
* The three crew members of Soyuz 11, Georgi Dobrovolski, Viktor Patsayev and Vladislav Volkov, were discovered dead after a successful landing following a nearly 24-day mission in earth orbit aboard the Salyut 1 space station. The cosmonaut's death were attributed to asphyxia, caused by a rapid decompression mishap during re-entry on June 30,1971.
* The seven bodies of Greg Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Michael J. Smith, and Dick Scobee were recovered in the mostly intact cockpit after the destruction of the Space Shuttle "Challenger" of January 28, 1986.
* The seven-member crew of Rick D. Husband, William McCool, Michael P. Anderson, David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel B. Clark, and Ilan Ramon were killed in the re-entry disintegration of the Space Shuttle "Columbia" on February 1, 2003.

Thus no remains of these victims are or have been in space.

Animal remains in space

A number of animals have died in space; see Animals in space. Not clear is whether there are still animal remains in space. Though there have been requests, no pets have yet been buried in space.


External links

* [ Space Services, Inc.]
* [ SpaceX space exploration technologies]
* [ Space Service's Memorial Spaceflights]
* [ L.F.C. Spacecylinder systems]
* [,70252-0.html?tw=wn_index_7 The Ultimate One-Way Ticket] , Wired Magazine February 21 2006
* [,72065-0.html?tw=wn_index_2 Death Is a Long, Strange Trip] , Wired Magazine November 7 2006

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