Sunday, March 8, 2015

Space Burial

One of the more interesting space businesses, which is really as old as spaceflight itself, is the idea of space burials.

As a means of disposing of the deceased space burials are actually quite practical and even more emotional. Leaving someone in a place where they will perpetually drift and travel and perhaps even seed life into arid worlds, is a very romantic way to send them on to the next life.

Space burials have been going on since the very first moon landers. Ashes of people have been sent up ever since. Celestis, Inc is a company that has formed around the idea of space burial. Celestis purchases empty space on launches and fills them with samples of cremated remains. The people that have been buried in space include Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, as well as several hundred other people.

However, at this point a typical space burial includes less than an ounce of ashes in a sample tube which take the ride, but then typically come back down as the orbit decays or the mission ends. Very few people have had remains placed permanently into space. And certainly, there have been no full bodies sent, only cremated remains.

Space burials as a business, are actually very simple. A basic set of vials are made and ashes inserted. Then they are placed in an empty corner of the next possible launch. Low weight, low effort, but a very moving way to be buried.

In future space burials will no doubt become much more commonplace. While they are currently reserved for rich and famous, as launches become ever more frequent so will the space to place the small caskets. Someday entire bodies may be buried in space. Though there will no doubt be restrictions on this practice to ensure that tourists in orbit are not surprised by a cadaver outside of the station.

Space burials will also grow to be much more than a typical burial. They may come to epitomize the ideals of space travel. Imagine an astronaut or scientist dedicating their entire life to space but dying before their dream was realized. Perhaps they wanted to reach an asteroid or set foot on Mars. Placing to sending their remains to those places fulfills and legitimizes their life's work and can inspire others to follow.

Space burials are likely one of the oldest commercial space businesses and will likely remain after many others die.  While at this moment they may seem a bit sterile compared to a casket and flowers, they are far more meaningful and beautiful. Space is an eternity, why not place a person's remains in eternity after they have entered it.

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