The Legacy Flight

Randy Van Warmer

Musician Randy Van Warmer, who wrote and recorded the #1 hit song, “Just When I Needed You Most,” was one of over 200 people on board The Legacy Flight.

Celestis conducted its first Earth Rise Service mission, The Legacy Flight, on April 28, 2007 from Spaceport America, New Mexico. The spacecraft, carrying the cremated remains of over 200 people, flew into space and returned to Earth. After the flight, Celestis returned the flown ashes – still sealed in their spaceflight capsules – to each family as keepsakes.

Among those on board this mission were Star Trek actor James Doohan (who played “Scotty”) and Mercury 7 astronaut L. Gordon Cooper.  Over 300 guests and media representatives from around the world witnessed the flawless launch of the UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL rocket!

But there’s more to a Celestis launch than the flight itself — exciting as that truly is!  Before the launch families and friends of those on board The Legacy Flight toured the launch pad and mission control.  They met with UP Aerospace and Celestis personnel, asked questions

Family hugging

A Legacy Flight family shares the joy of fulfilling their loved one’s spaceflight wish.

about the mission, and took photos of the spacecraft that would carry their loved ones into space.  Celestis also conducted a memorial service for the people on board the mission.

Celesits conducts Earth Rise spaceflights each year. The service is easy to arrange and surprisingly affordable.  For more information contact us: We’ll be happy to mail you an information kit, and answer any questions you may have.

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The Founders Flight

Gene Roddenberry

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was a participant on Celestis’ first memorial spaceflight, The Founders Flight.

On April 21, 1997 Celestis conducted the world’s first private memorial spaceflight. An air-launched rocket – Orbital Sciences Corporation’s (OSC)Pegasus XL – was released from OSC’s Stargazer aircraft at an altitude of approximately 38,000 feet (11.6 kilometers) over the Atlantic Ocean at 7:00 am Eastern Standard Time. The Pegasus XL free-fell for five seconds before its first stage engine ignited. The three stages of the Pegasus XL carried the cremated remains of 24 Celestis participants into low Earth orbit. The launch garnered worldwide media coverage from such media outlets as the BBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Among the 24 people whose lives were commemorated by this historic mission were:

Gene Roddenberry – the creator of Star Trek. NASA had flown Mr. Roddenberry’s cremated remains into Earth orbit before – on a 1992 space shuttle Columbia mission. But of course, although flying on the shuttle was certainly a high honor, that shuttle mission orbited Earth for only a few days, whereas the Founders Flight orbited Earth for over five years. Both Mr. Roddenberry and his wife, Majel (who passed away in 2008) will fly together on Celestis inaugural Voyager Service Mission into deep space.

Timothy Leary — the famous 1960s pop icon.  Quoting from his Celestis biography, “I wanted to be a philosopher. Aristotle, Plato, Voltaire and all these guys who were out there in nirvana. I discovered as I grew up that I was different. Life was to have adventures and quests and Huckleberry Finn.”

Benson Hamlin – an aeronautical engineer who, while working for Bell Aircraft in Buffalo, New York, was the principal designer of the preliminary concept for the Bell X-1, the first supersonic aircraft. The Bll X-1 is on permanent display in the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum.

Bell X-1

Celestis participant Benson Hamlin helped design the famous Bell X-1 in which Captain Charles “Chuck” Yeager broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947.

Krafft A. Ehricke — a famous rocket propulsion engineer known for his contributions to, and his profound understanding of both the technology and philosophical meaning of space development.  He helped to develop Atlas and Centaur at General Dynamics, where he would serve as Vice President.  He led advanced studies at Rockwell International during the 1970s, which resulted in, “… a priceless legacy of studies, designs, writings and even paintings describing the colonization of Moon and the development of Earth-Moon space,” quoting his Celestis biography.

The High Frontier

Gerard K. O’Neill’s book The High Frontier

Beauford Franklin and James Kuhl — two of the original three co-founders of the Celestis Group of Melbourne, Florida.  Mr. Frankin was a mechanical engineer whose aerospace career included work at the  Lockheed Missiles and Space Company, United Technologies Corporation, and U.S. Boosters, Inc. at the Kennedy Space Center.  Mr. Kuhl was a World War II fighter pilot, and would serve as the commander of the 9898th Air Force Reserve Unit at Patrick Air Force Base.

Gerard K. O’Neill — a Princeton University experimental physicist and futurist who authored the award-winning book The High Frontier, which envisions a future where humans live in huge space colonies and where solar energy is harnessed in space for use on Earth. Dr. O’Neill founded the Space Studies Institute, served on the President’s National Commission on Space, and was an advisor to NASA and Congress.

Read more about The Founders Flight and the people on board the mission.

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Celestis in Pop Culture

Majel Roddenberry with Celestis, CEO Charles Chafer

Star Trek‘s Majel Roddenberry with Celestis CEO Charles Chafer

Being the only private company to have conducted memorial spaceflights — with over 1,000 participants flown so far — Celestis is widely known for its unique service for honoring departed loved ones.  As a result, Celestis has often been featured in popular culture.

Celestis gained worldwide notice with its very first memorial spaceflight — The Founders Flight, which was launched into space in April 1997.  Major media outlets around the world covered the story.  See, for example, the New York Times‘ front page article.  The New Yorker magazine published a cartoon about the launch.  Pop culture icon Timothy Leary, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and 22 others were on board this mission.  The flight was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records, and was even added to the popular board game Trivial Pursuit.

Star Trek star Patrick Stewart is planning a funeral fitting his sci-fi past – he wants to be launched into space. The 64-year-old actor has already decided how he wants to depart the earth, and he plans to use his links with the hit show to make sure his send off is a spectacular one. —, Jan. 17, 2005

Amelie movie poster

Poster for the 2001 French movie Amelie, which includes a reference to the Celestis space burial service

With the many Celestis missions flown since the Founders Flight, Celestis has gained high profile endorsements over the years.  Noted personalities from U.S. Senator John Glenn to actress Susan Sarandon have recommended Celestis to friends and constituents.  Actors including Jonathan Frakes, Patrick Stewart, and Tom Hanks have announced their own interest in a space funeral.  Star Trek actor James Doohan has flown on three Celestis missions, and will be on a future Celestis Voyager Service mission into deep space. Joining him on that mission will be Star Trek‘s Gene and Majel Roddenberry.  Movies, including the award winning French film Amelie, have made references to the Celestis Memorial Spaceflight service.  Popular music from country and western to electronica has been composed and released highlighting the Celestis service.  Our CEO, Charles Chafer, even appeared on the popular game show To Tell the Truth.

But you don’t have to be a celebrity to use the Celestis service.  The overwhelming majority of Celestis memorial spaceflight participants were everyday people who typically had an interest in space exploration, science fiction, astronomy … or just lived life to the fullest!  For more information about arranging a memorial spaceflight for yourself or a loved one, contact us today.

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The Mercury 7 and Celestis

Mercury 7 news conference

During the April 9, 1959 NASA news conference that introduced the Mercury 7 astronauts, they were asked, “Who wants to be the first man launched into space?” All seven raised their hands — Walter Schirra and John Glenn raising both hands. From the left are Donald Slayton, Alan Shepard, Schirra, Gus Grissom, Glenn, Gordon Cooper and Scott Carpenter.
Image Credit: NASA

In a Washington D.C. news conference on April 9, 1959, NASA announced the names of the first group of astronauts — the Mercury 7.  Two of those space pioneers would figure into the history of Celestis and its parent company, Space Services Holdings, Inc.

Charles Chafer, David Hannah, Jr. and Deke Slayton

Conestoga 1 post launch press conference, September 9, 1982. Seated from right: Deke Slayton (retired Mercury 7 astronaut and SSIA president), David Hannah, Jr. (SSIA founder and chairman), Charles M. Chafer (president of today’s Celestis, Inc.).

Under the direction of former Mercury 7 astronaut Donald K. “Deke” Slayton, Space Services, Inc. of America (SSIA) made history as the first private enterprise to launch a rocket into outer space: Conestoga 1. On Sept. 9, 1982, SSIA successfully launched its Conestoga I rocket from Matagorda Island, Texas. The launch marked the world’s first privately funded mission to space, and would lead to the creation of a billion dollar market for private aerospace firms.

Prior to liftoff, the SSIA crew underwent the process of clearing all legal and regulatory hurdles for the launch, laying the foundation for future commercial space launches. The effort was primarily funded by David Hannah, Jr., Toddie Lee Wynne, and other donors confident in their ability to succeed. Following the launch, dozens of aspiring firms entered the space business in an effort to get a portion of the substantial profits to be had, thus establishing the commercial space industry.

Today’s Space Services Holdings, Inc. (SSHI) a corporate descendant of Hannah’s original company, has conducted over a dozen commercial space missions, has two spacecraft on orbit, and is partnered with major aerospace companies and large, public Internet firms interested in tapping into new commercial space markets. SSHI continues to strive toward bolstering the commercial space industry to ensure that, 30 years down the road, it experiences the same significant growth that followed the Conestoga launch over 30 years ago.

Read Deke Slayton’s NASA biography…


L. Gordon Cooper

NASA photo of Mercury 7 astronaut L. Gordon Cooper

L. Gordon “Gordo” Cooper became a leading celebrity of the new Space Age when he was selected as one of the Mercury 7 astronauts in April 1959. In May 1963 he piloted the Faith 7 spacecraft on the Mercury 9 mission – the last of the Project Mercury missions. In August 1965 he commanded the Gemini 5 mission, where he and astronaut Charles Conrad set a new space endurance record at the time, orbiting Earth for approximately eight days. The mission demonstrated that astronauts could survive trips to the Moon and back. This flight also made Gordo the first human to fly on two missions on Earth orbit. Additionally, Gordo served as a backup astronaut for the Gemini 12 and Apollo 10 missions. All told, Gordo logged 222 hours in space. Gordo left NASA and retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1970.

After his passing in 2004, his family decided to honor Gordo’s life with the Celestis memorial spaceflight service. Gordo was a participant on board Celestis’ 2007 Legacy Flight, 2008 Explorers Flight and 2012 New Frontier Flight that orbited Earth.

Read L. Gordon Cooper’s Celestis biography…

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Launch vehicles that have carried cremated remains into space

Space shuttle

Space Shuttle orbiting Earth

Celestis has conducted the overwhelming majority of memorial spaceflights — and is the only private company to have done so. Here’s a list of launch vehicles that have been used to carry cremated remains into space:

Space Shuttle — A portion of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s cremated remains flew on NASA’s space shuttle Columbia (STS-52) in 1992 and were returned to Earth.

Pegasus — In April 1997, 24 cremated remains samples were launched into Earth orbit on an air-launched Pegasus rocket on board Celestis’ first memorial spaceflight, the “Founders Flight.” The Celestis memorial satellite orbited Earth until it re-entered the atmosphere in May 2002 northeast of Australia.  Gene Roddenberry was on board this mission, and will — along with his wife, Majel — fly into deep space on board a Celestis Voyager Service mission.

Athena II — Celestis provided its first Luna Service mission by helping friends of noted planetary geologist Dr. Eugene Shoemaker include a symbolic portion of Dr. Shoemaker’s cremated remains on the NASA Lunar Prospector mission launched January 6, 1998 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.  Launch occurred on a three-stage Athena II rocket.  On July 31, 1999 the spacecraft impacted the lunar surface inside a permanently shadowed crater near the south lunar pole, creating a permanent monument to Dr. Shoemaker.

The Earth viewed from the Moon

Celestis’ first mission to the Moon was launched on an Athena II launch vehicle in 1998.

Taurus — On February 10, 1998 30 cremated remains samples flew as a secondary payload launched into Earth orbit on a Taurus rocket. This mission — Celestis’ “Ad Astra Flight” —  is still on orbit and has an estimated orbital lifetime of 240 years.  The memorial satellite, along with Celestis’ 1999 “Millennial Flight,” can be tracked online.

SpaceShipOne — On September 29, 2004 SpaceShipOne carried the cremated remains of the mother of SpaceShipOne’s designer,  Burt Rutan, on a suborbital flight that successfully flew in space and returned to Earth.  Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo is designed, in part, on the basis of SpaceShipOne.

Atlas V — A sample of the cremated remains of astronomer Clyde Tombaugh were part of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft launched January 19, 2006 by an Atlas V rocket.  This NASA mission will fly the discoverer of Pluto past that distant dwarf planet later this year.

UP Aerospace launch

Launch of Celestis’ first Earth Rise Service mission on board an UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL launch vehicle

SpaceLoft XL — The first Celestis Earth Rise Service memorial spaceflight flew on April 28, 2007.  The Earth Rise Service flies the cremated remains into space and returns them to Earth.  After the mission each family receives the flown flight capsule, still containing the cremated remains.  These annual missions occur from Spaceport America, New Mexico on an UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL launch vehicle. The cremated remains samples of over 200 people were on board 2007′s “Legacy Flight,” including Mercury 7 astronaut L. Gordon Cooper and Star Trek actor James Doohan (“Scotty”).  Both Cooper and Doohan later flew on Celestis’ Earth Orbit mission, the “New Frontier Flight,” and will fly on a future Voyager Service mission.

Delta IV Heavy — On December 5, 2014 NASA launched a cremated remains sample on the Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 on a Delta IV Heavy (ULA) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The person honored by this special arrangement was a Lockheed Martin aeronautical engineer who worked on the Orion project for over a decade.

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Spaceport America Tourist Attractions

White Sands National Monument

The White Sands National Monument

Our next Earth Rise Service mission will launch out of Spaceport America, New Mexico.  If you’re traveling to New Mexico — “The Land of Enchantment” — to view the liftoff in person, consider visiting some of the many tourist attractions near Spaceport America.

First, tour Spaceport America itself.  Spaceport America describes itself as, “the first spaceport in the world built-from-the-ground-up to host private enterprise, intended to be the launch-pad of the global commercial spaceflight industry and the second space age. The $209 million project has attracted worldwide attention because of its bold premise, stunning architecture and the fact that it is home to the world’s first commercial passenger spaceline company, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.”

The White Sands Missile Range Museum‘s outdoor display of over 50 rockets and missiles that were tested at the U.S. government’s famous White Sands Missile Range is a must-see.  White Sands is the U.S.’ largest overland military test range.  It was at White Sands’ “Trinity Site” that the world’s first atomic bomb was tested on July 16, 1945.

Robert Goddard

Visit the New Mexico Museum of Space History and learn about the pioneering rocket research Robert Goddard conducted in New Mexico.

White Sands National Monument is one of the world’s great natural wonders – the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Here, dunes have engulfed 275 square miles of desert creating the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. White Sands National Monument preserves this dunefield, along with the plants and animals that have adapted to its constantly changing environment.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park encompasses the largest and most popular lake in New Mexico, and provides camping, boating, water skiing, swimming, fishing, hiking and bird watching. Southern New Mexico’s mild climate makes this park a popular year-round destination.

You might consider visiting one of the area’s famous hot springs, famous for their reputation as ancient healing remedies, in nearby Truth or Consequences.  In fact, the city of Truth or Consequences was originally named “Hot Springs.”

We also recommend making the roughly two-hour drive to Alamogordo for a visit to the New Mexico Museum of Space History.  The museum stresses the significant role that the state of New Mexico has played in the development of the U.S. space program.   For example, Robert Goddard, the father of American rocketry, conducted much of his pioneering aerospace research in New Mexico.  Visit the museum to learn more about Goddard’s work, and to see the museum’s many fascinating space history artifacts on display.

For more tourist information, visit the Web sites of the Elephant Butte Chamber of Commerce, the Truth or Consequences Chamber of Commerce, the Truth or Consequences Visitors Guide, the Sierra County New Mexico Recreation and Tourism Board, the Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the New Mexico Department of Tourism.

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Can I prearrange a space funeral?

Couple holding hands on a beach

© Can Stock Photo

You’re fascinated with the idea of arranging to have your ashes launched into space, but you’re asking, “Can I prearrange a space funeral?”  The short answer is, “Yes!”

Prearranging a funeral is a smart choice.  You ensure that your wishes will be honored.  Prearrangment also relieves your family of anguishing over what would be the most appropriate way to honor your life.  With a preneed space funeral contract you lock in the price of your space burial: You need not worry about future price increases.  What’s more, it’s simple to arrange.  Prearranged funerals and memorial services are an increasingly popular option.

With Celestis, you can arrange to have your cremated remains launched into Earth orbit, to the Moon, or into deep space.  Celestis can even fly your ashes into space and parachute them back to Earth: Your cremated remains will be returned to your family, still encapsulated in the spaceflight hardware that flew in space.

Celestis provides a preneed contract for each of its space burial services.  You can download the contract from the Celestis website.  Carefully review the contract with your family: This is a good way to ensure your family will clearly know your wishes when the time comes.  You might also want to express your wishes for final disposition in your will.

A 10-20% deposit locks in the price of the memorial spaceflight service you choose.  You can make periodic payments toward the balance of the contract, use insurance to pay for the balance of the service, or your estate can pay the balance owed at the time of need.  Celestis offers a 10% discount for veterans. You can cancel at any time.  Your money is deposited into a Trust account with the Houston branch of ClearPoint Federal Bank & Trust.  This account is audited annually.  In fact, Celestis received the highest ranking from the Texas Department of Banking, which audited Celestis’ preneed account on April 7, 2014.

Finally, consider attending a Celestis memorial spaceflight launch!  Celestis launches from a variety of locations.  Bring your family and friends and experience the excitement of liftoff!

For more information, contact Celestis at

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X-Class Solar Flare

This spectacular image of the sun shows yet another powerful solar flare that the sun has emitted in recent weeks.  The image was taken Nov. 19 by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.  You can fly a symbolic portion of your love one’s cremated remains on board a new solar observing spacecraft, the Sunjammer solar sail, which will give us even earlier warning of solar storms that could adversely affect Earth.  Reservations are open: Contact us for more information.

Solar flare

An X1-class flare erupts from the right side of the sun in this image captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on Nov. 19, 2013. The flare erupted from a region that produced many flares in its two-week journey across the face of the sun, and is shown here just before rotating out of view.
Image Credit: NASA/SDO

This solar flare peaked at 5:26 a.m. EST (10:26 am GMT) Nov. 19. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

This flare is classified as an X1.0 class flare. “X-class” denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc.

This flare came from an active region numbered AR 1893 that is just rotating out of sight over the sun’s right side. Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment, since the sun’s normal 11-year activity cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum conditions. Humans have tracked this solar cycle continuously since it was discovered in 1843, and it is normal for there to be many flares a day during the sun’s peak activity.


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Celestis expands to Las Vegas!

Las Vegas signLas Vegas residents are used to living with the Sun.  Now they can spend eternity orbiting it in space.  The Davis Funeral Home Charleston Chapel in Central Las Vegas and Davis Funeral Home and Memorial Park Eastern Chapel are now offering families the opportunity to honor departed loved ones by flying cremated remains on a pioneering NASA mission that could orbit the Sun for millions of years.  These two funeral homes are now the exclusive distributors in Las Vegas for Celestis Memorial Spaceflights, which has launched a dozen space burial missions since 1997.

The NASA mission, called “Sunjammer,” is scheduled for launch in January 2015.  Celestis’ parent company, Space Services Holdings, Inc., is part of a team of leading aerospace companies and government agencies – led by NASA – that is developing and launching Sunjammer, the world’s largest solar sail. Like a sailboat that harnesses the wind on Earth, a solar sail uses a large area of reflective material to harness the physical pressure of sunlight in space. The slight, but steady force of sunlight is free energy that can push a spacecraft just about anywhere in zero-g.

Sunjammer will be the largest solar sail ever flown – almost 13,000 square feet in area, about one-third the size of a football field.  The spacecraft will serve to protect humanity by monitoring the Sun for dangerous solar storms, which can cause serious, long-term damage to electric utilities on Earth and satellites in space.  With enough early warning of impending solar storms, engineers can minimize the damage such storms pose to our increasingly high-tech civilization.

Another service that the two funeral homes are making available to Las Vegas residents is Celestis’ newest offerings, also on board Sunjammer: Celestis MindFiles™ and Celestis BioFiles™, which will permit people from around the world to include their photos, messages, music, art, and DNA on Sunjammer. Using Celestis MindFiles and BioFiles, Las Vegas families have the opportunity to take one last eternal trip together with their departed loved ones.

Star Trek's Majel and Gene Roddenberry

Star Trek‘s Majel and Gene Roddenberry

Also aboard will be the cremated remains of the late Gene Roddenberry (the creator of Star Trek), his wife Majel (the “First Lady of Star Trek“), James Doohan (who played “Scotty”), along with people from various walks of life.

Rod Roddenberry, member of Star Trek‘s first family and son of Gene and Majel Barrett Roddenberry, said about launching his parents on the upcoming Sunjammer mission, “I think it was pretty amazing that my father’s ashes got to go up on one the first Celestis flights in 1997 and I remember being very impressed that he was actually going to go where so few had gone before. So years later my mother spoke to Celestis and said that she would love to one day accompany my father up. I’m very happy that she will join my father on the Sunjammer Solar Sail mission very shortly. I was also really excited to hear that James Doohan (“Scotty” as in “Beam me up Scotty”) from Star Trek would be joining my mother and father on that same mission. ”

“We welcome Davis Funeral Home Charleston Chapel in Central Las Vegas and Davis Funeral Home and Memorial Park Eastern Chapel to the Celestis team,” said Charles M. Chafer, CEO of Space Services Holdings, Inc. and co-founder of Celestis.  “We are impressed with their professionalism and their dedication to serving the families who use their services.”

“We are excited to offer the Celestis services to Las Vegas,” said Todd Noecker, General Manager of Davis Funeral Home Charleston Chapel in Central Las Vegas and Davis Funeral Home and Memorial Park Eastern Chapel.  “As Las Vegas is home to the largest annual Star Trek convention in the world, the Sunjammer mission is a wonderful opportunity for Las Vegans to journey with Star Trek legends into the final frontier on a mission that will protect Earth.”

Visitors to these two Las Vegas funeral homes can learn more about Celestis and its various space burial options. In addition to the Sunjammer mission, families can have cremated remains launched into Earth orbit, to the Moon, or on a trip to space that returns the cremated remains to Earth.  With this latter service, after the spaceflight occurs, the cremated remains – still sealed inside the space capsule – are returned to the family as a memento.  Visitors can also pre-arrange a Celestis space burial for themselves.

For more information, see and

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