Celestis, Inc.

Celestis cannister

As little as a gram of cremated human remains may be put within these lipstick-size containers for launch into space.

A Texas-based company that has made a business out of launching the cremated remains of individuals into space; the company offers to fly 7 grams of ashes for $5,300 (2002 price). In April 1997, Celestis sent some of the ashes of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, 1960s icon Timothy Leary, and 22 other individuals into orbit around the Earth using an Orbital Sciences Corporation Pegasus XL rocket released from a converted L-1011 jumbo jet. A Spanish research satellite was launched at the same time. Since then, there have been several other Celestis funerary missions, typically as secondary payloads. Celestis 04 was launched by a Taurus rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base on September 21, 2001, alongside the much larger payloads OrbView-4 and QuikTOMS. Two canisters mounted to the Taurus fourth stage contained lipstick tube-sized capsules of ashes. The canisters were to remain mounted to the orbiting rocket stage until the spent motor naturally reentered about a year after launch. But the Taurus went out of control following second-stage separation and fell back to Earth with its payloads less than two minutes after liftoff.


Now the company has plans to drop ashes on to the lunar surface. Celestis is negotiating with commercial organizations who are planning missions to the Moon that may take place over the next few years. The first person to be laid to rest in this way will be Mareta West, the geologist who died in 1998 and was responsible for selecting the Apollo 11 landing site. Two grams of her cremated remains will be deposited on the Moon. Ashes of the astronomer Gene Shoemaker crashed into the lunar surface in 1999 aboard Lunar Prospector.