A spaceflight honoring 100 years and over 1,000 people

Centennial Flight launch
Launch of the Centennial Flight from Spaceport America, New Mexico

The June 21, 2013 launch from Spaceport America, New Mexico of the Celestis Centennial Flight — which was named in honor of the 100th anniversary of New Mexico’s statehood — marked the cumulative flight of over 1,000 Celestis flight capsules into space over the course of Celestis’ company history.

Like Celestis families of other memorial spaceflights, the family members who travelled to Spaceport America found that the launch and all of the Celestis activities associated with it were made for an emotionally-moving experience. Family members and friends participated in the Centennial Flight’s launch-related events, which included:

– A tour of mission control, the launch pad and Spaceport America;

– Sharing memories of their departed loved ones in a non-sectarian memorial service for all of those on board the mission; and

– Viewing the thrilling launch!

After the flight each family received their loved one’s flown space capsule — with the cremated remains still inside — as a keepsake. Families also received a video of the launch and related activities, as well as a Launch Certificate.

Among the people aboard this memorial spaceflight were:

– Greatly admired Hatch, New Mexico Mayor Judd Nordyke, who was an early advocate for Spaceport America;

– Candy Johnson, an American dancer who appeared in several of the Frankie Avalon ‘Beach Party’ films of the 1960s, thrilling audiences with her highly energetic dance style;

– Johnson’s sister, Gayle Johns; and

– Maria Swan who was crowned “Miss World Argentina” in 1967 and became Argentina’s first female airline pilot.

The mission flew aboard an UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL launch vehicle, which has flown each of Celestis’ Earth Rise service missions. The spacecraft followed a trajectory like that flown by the astronauts on NASA’s early Gemini missions by flying into space and, after experiencing the zero gravity environment, returning to Earth. The Centennial Flight flew to an altitude of 73.9 miles (118.9 kilometers) and landed at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico approximately 23 miles (37 kilometers) downrange.

This was Celestis’ 5th Earth Rise mission and 12th overall memorial spaceflight.  Starting at just $1,295, the Earth Rise Service is a popular memorial spaceflight choice which, unlike other options such as Earth Orbit and lunar memorial missions, returns the flown cremated remains to the family. Read more about the Celestis Earth Rise Service….

The Goddard Flight

When Celestis launched its 10th memorial spaceflight from Spaceport America, New Mexico in May 2011 the company decided to name the mission “The Goddard Flight” in honor of Robert Goddard, a famous American space pioneer.

The Goddard Flight is named after Robert Goddard
American rocketry pioneer Robert H. Goddard and his first liquid-fueled rocket, March 16, 1926.

Robert Goddard, the father of modern rocket propulsion, spent a dozen years in New Mexico developing and testing his rocket designs. So when Celestis launched its 10th memorial spaceflight from Spaceport America, New Mexico in May 2011 the company decided to name the mission The Goddard Flight in honor of this famous American space pioneer.

Celestis’ Spaceport America launches fly on a suborbital trajectory, like Alan Shepard’s historic May 1961 suborbital spaceflight when Shepard became the first American to fly in space. Like other Celestis Earth Rise service missions, the Goddard Flight flew into space, remained above Earth’s atmosphere for several minutes, and then returned to Earth. After the flight the Celestis payload was recovered, validated as having reached space, and each flown capsule – still containing its ashes – was returned to each family as a keepsake.

Celestis Spaceport America launch pad tourLaunch Pad Tour
Families tour the launch pad at Spaceport America the day prior to a Celestis Earth Rise launch.Attending the LaunchAttending a Launch

Attending a Celestis launch at Spaceport America is an unforgettable experience! Families tour the launch pad and mission control – a privilege that Celestis cannot always arrange for families at other launch venues.  The day prior to liftoff Celestis conducts a non-sectarian memorial service where families share memories of their departed loved ones: These services are always beautiful, emotionally moving experiences that make for lifelong memories. Attendees also tour Spaceport America and see the facilities Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic company will use for space tourist spaceflights. Moreover, families enjoy the beauty and wonder of New Mexico, and readily appreciate why the state is known as “the Land of Enchantment.”

Besides the launch and related activities at Spaceport America, Celestis publishes on its website the biographies of the people on board each of its memorial spaceflights. In addition to the flown capsule that is returned to each family, the flight’s online biographies provide a lasting tribute to the people whose dreams of spaceflight were fulfilled by their families through Celestis.

Reservations are open for the next Celestis Earth Rise mission, The Starseeker Flight, which is scheduled for launch from Spaceport America this year. Celestis families will travel to New Mexico, visit the rocket and mission control, attend the Celestis memorial service, and experience the excitement of liftoff from Spaceport America! Contact us for more information…

Learn more about the Goddard Flight…


The Original Celestis

Conestoga 1 launch - the original Celestis company wanted to fly on SSIA's rockets
Launch of Conestoga 1, the first private rocket in space, by Space Services Inc. of America

With 14 memorial spaceflights to date, we have flown more people in space than all the world’s space agencies combined. But did you know that there have been two Celestis companies?

In the 1980s a Melbourne, Florida company called “The Celestis Group” wanted to fly human ashes on board a launch vehicle provided by Space Services Inc. of America, which conducted the first private launch into space in 1982. Though ultimately unsuccessful in launching the company, by proving that people all over the world were interested in memorial spaceflights this pioneering effort laid the groundwork for today’s Celestis, Inc., which was formed in 1994 by two former employees of Space Services Inc. of America.

Celestis Founders Flight launch
Launch of the first Celestis memorial spaceflight, The Founders Flight, April 21, 1997

Indeed, among the 24 people on board the first Celestis memorial spaceflight in 1997 were two of the three space entrepreneurs who formed the original company.

Beauford Franklin was a mechanical engineer who worked for Lockheed and United Technologies on such projects as the U.S. Air Force Titan IIIC rocket program, the Navy Polaris missile program, and NASA’s space shuttle.

James Kuhl served as a combat pilot in World War II, flying P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs in 100 missions over Europe. He would retire from the Air Force Reserve as a Lt. Colonel.

Both gentlemen dipped into the future with their vision of memorial spaceflight, foreseeing a time when the heavens would thrive with commerce. So it was only flitting that they would be among the first of many aerospace professionals who have flown on Celestis missions.

The experienced professionals at today’s Celestis stand ready to help you commemorate the life of a departed loved one, or prearrange a memorial spaceflight for yourself.

Contact us for more information…

The New Frontier Flight

New Frontier Flight launch
Launch of the New Frontier Flight, May 22, 2012, Cape Canaveral, Florida

Have you ever heard of a memorial being conducted at night? That’s what Celestis did when it launched the ashes of 320 mission participants into space May 22, 2012 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Nighttime launches are spectacular events – especially when someone you loved is on board. The Celestis families who witnessed the liftoff of The New Frontier Flight were overcome with joy as the launch vehicle carrying their loved ones’ ashes ascended into the night sky, like a star joining the heavens above.

Among the people on Celestis’ New Frontier Flight were Star Trek actor James Doohan (“Mr. Scott”), musician Randy Van Warmer – known for his hit song, “Just When I Needed You Most” – and Mercury 7 astronaut L. Gordon Cooper. In May 1963 Cooper 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.

Ralph (Peter) T. Peterson Jr.
Pilot Ralph (Peter) T. Peterson Jr. flew on the New Frontier Flight. For his online Celestis biography his wife wrote, “Peter really wanted to fly on a space mission, and was so disappointed when that couldn’t happen. I made a promise to him many years ago, that he would one day go into space; hence his final mission will fulfill his dream.”

Yet the overwhelming majority of New Frontier Flight participants were everyday people from various walks of life. There were engineers, pilots, homemakers, a plumber, entrepreneurs, a delivery truck driver, educators, students, doctors, a police officer, and artists. They hailed from the United States, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, China, India, Taiwan, Japan, Australia, The Netherlands, France, South Africa and Russia. While they had different backgrounds, they had families and friends who wanted to commemorate their lives in a truly unique way that reflected their interests in space exploration, science fiction and the stars above.

View video of the New Frontier Flight launch

Reservations are open for the next Celestis Earth-orbiting mission, which is scheduled for launch from the Cape this year. Celestis families will travel to Florida, view the rocket, tour NASA-KSC, attend the Celestis memorial service, and experience the excitement of liftoff from the cradle of the American space program! Contact us for more information…

Learn more about the New Frontier Flight…

The Celestis Foundation: Private enterprise in space for the public good on earth

Since 1995, the Celestis Foundation has donated funds to organizations that promote innovative projects that improve life on Earth and stimulate our ongoing exploration of the universe. The Foundation focuses on nurturing entrepreneurial space enterprises, supporting organizations that educate our children and the general public about space, and assisting charities that create a positive future on Earth.

Houston Urban Debate LeagueFor example, the Celestis Foundation has sponsored the annual Frank J. Redd Student Scholarship Competition, which provides college students with the opportunity to share their work on small satellite concepts and missions at the annual AIAA Small Satellite Conference at Utah State University. Other Foundation recipients have included the X PRIZE Foundation, the Houston Urban Debate League and Women of Color in Flight.

Celestis believes space should be opened to everyone. Its memorial spaceflights provide affordable ways for everyday people to fly in space, while its Foundation helps lay the groundwork for our future in space.

Celestis is the only company on the planet to have successfully conducted Memorial Spaceflight missions. Visit us at Celestis.com for more information or to arrange a Memorial Spaceflight for yourself or a loved one.

Frank J. Redd Student Scholarship Competition
Celestis Chief Operating Officer Harvin C. Moore, left, shown with Frank J. Redd Student Scholarship Competition Scholarship winner David Bamber, center, and Gil Moore, one of the scholarship judges.


The Music of Celestis

Randy VanWarmer
Randy VanWarmer has flown on several Celestis memorial spaceflights. Image Credit: Pinterest.com

Celestis memorial spaceflights are emotionally moving experiences, often driving families to cry tears of joy as they witness the liftoff of their departed loved ones into space. So it’s not surprising that musicians have composed songs about Celestis and have flown on its memorial spaceflights.

Celestis’ most famous musical participant was the late singer-songwriter Randy VanWarmer, known best for his 1979 hit single, “Just When I Needed You Most.” VanWarmer always dreamt of becoming an astronaut – a dream that was reflected in his song, “I’m Gonna Build Me a Rocket,” and in the cover of his “Terraform” album where he is featured wearing an Apollo-era spacesuit.

Whether it’s Randy VanWarmer, a Russian band that created an album inspired by Celestis (see below), or a Celestis participant and pilot who was the subject of a country music song, the music of Celestis reflects the essence of Celestis – the fulfillment of the dream of spaceflight.

Celestis is the only company on the planet to have successfully conducted Memorial Spaceflight missions. Visit us at Celestis.com for more information or to arrange a Memorial Spaceflight for yourself or a loved one.

“Another Time Another Place” from the album “Celestis: Space Ceremonial Music” composed and performed by the Russian band Cyclotimia, inspired by Celestis memorial spaceflights

The Founders Flight: The World’s First Private Memorial Spaceflight

Gene Roddenberry
Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was one of the participants on board Celestis’ first memorial spaceflight,
The Founders Flight.

On April 21, 1997 Celestis made space history when it conducted the world’s first, private memorial spaceflight – The Founders Flight. On that historic day an Orbital Sciences aircraft departed the Canary Islands carrying an air-launched Pegasus rocket with the precious Celestis payload on board. The aircraft flew to an altitude of 38,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean and released the winged Pegasus rocket for a five-second free fall before the main engine ignited, powering the three-stage solid fuel vehicle into low Earth orbit.  On board were Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry,  ‘60s icon Timothy Leary, space visionary Gerard K. O’Neill and 21 others.

Celestis has conducted 14 memorial spaceflights and flown over 1,000 people into space – more people than have been flown by all of the space agencies of the world combined.  Participants include not only celebrities, but also everyday people who in life were passionate about space, astronomy and science fiction.

Celestis is the only company on the planet to have successfully conducted Memorial Spaceflight missions. Visit us at Celestis.com for more information or to arrange a memorial spaceflight for yourself or a loved one.

The Celestis Founders Flight video, including footage of the tour of the aircraft that carried the rocket, the launch, and the post-launch memorial service

Learn more about The Founders Flight…

Reservations are open for our next Earth Orbit mission, The Heritage Flight

Celestis is preparing to launch its seventh Earth Orbit memorial mission, which will occur from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Celestis has named this mission “The Heritage Flight” in honor of the rich history of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and NASA’s neighboring Kennedy Space Center.

The people whose ashes will fly aboard this mission will follow in the footsteps of the many astronauts who flew from the Cape, including Mercury 7 astronauts such as Alan Shepard, John Glenn, and the late L. Gordon Cooper. Indeed, Cooper has flown on several Celestis memorial spaceflights.

NASA Astronaut John McBride speaks in Cape Canaveral to Celestis families attending the Celestis New Frontier Flight memorial service held on “L-1” — the day before the scheduled launch of their loved ones into Earth orbit.

What better way to commemorate the life of someone who was fascinated by the space program, dreamed of flying in space, or wondered at the beauty of the night sky than to make them part of a Celestis memorial launch out of Cape Canaveral? Reservations are now open for this historic mission.

Celestis is the only company on the planet to have successfully conducted Memorial Spaceflight missions. Visit us at Celestis.com for more information or to arrange a Memorial Spaceflight for yourself or a loved one.

Tourists see Saturn V
Viewing the Saturn V rocket is just one of the attractions you can view at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Image Credit: Pinterest.com

Boldly Gone…New film captures the spirit of a Celestis launch

Boldly Gone
Two brothers (actors Dimitri Leonidas and Sean Biggerstaff) discuss the impending liftoff of their father’s ashes in Boldly Gone.

A new short feature – Boldly Gone – produced by London indie studio x and directed by Mark Buchanan, tells the story of two estranged brothers reunited as they attempt to launch their father’s ashes on a home built rocket into low earth orbit – from a field on England’s stunning North Norfolk Coast.

Starring Sean Biggerstaff (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) and Dimitri Leonidas (Monuments Men, Rosewater) with a cameo by legendary Buck Rogers actor Gil Gerard, the film blends all of the elements of a Celestis launch – grief, anticipation, exhilaration, closure, and joy – with the human story of two brothers rediscovering their own relationship.

If you’ve ever thought about choosing a Celestis Memorial Spaceflight for yourself or a loved one – or if you already have – watch this film:

Boldly Gone from xFilm on Vimeo.

Celestis Co-Founder and CEO Charles M. Chafer recently reached out to the producer, thanking the Boldly Gone team for their work and saying “it brought a tear to my eye.” In reply, producer Paul Thomas noted, “I’m sure you can see that the film was influenced by the work you do, and the fact that the ashes of Gene Roddenberry and James Doohan had been sent into space.”

Released to the public on February 3, 2016, the film has been advance showing at various festivals – including Texas’ own SXSW – for over a year.

Movie poster for George Pal’s Conquest of Space (1955).
Movie poster for George Pal’s Conquest of Space (1955). Image Credit: Pinterest.com

This isn’t the first time the topic of space funerals has made it to the movies. Science fiction movies like George Pal’s Conquest of Space (1955), or Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982) portrayed funerals and memorial services in space. The Loved One, 1965’s satirical portrait of the California funeral industry of the 60s, included a space funeral.

It wasn’t until after the Celestis Founders Flight in 1997 that popular culture, including films, began to portray the reality of burial in space. 2001’s global hit Amelie included a mention of burial in space as something the character wanted to do. In 2008’s I Know You Know, Welsh film maker Justin Kerrigan included as the final scene actual footage of the Celestis Ad Astra Flight on which his father was a participant. Kerrigan has won numerous international awards, including the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Director award for 2000’s Human Traffic.

Even as more and more elements of our culture explore the notion of memorial spaceflights in art, song, film, and literature, it is unlikely that Boldly Gone will be eclipsed in its simple meaning and elegant story telling.

To the Moon! Celestis Luna 02 mission nears…

As the race to win the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize (awarded to the first private mission to land on the moon) reaches the final countdown, Celestis is poised to launch our Luna 02 Memorial Spaceflight Mission. The Luna 02 mission is scheduled for liftoff in 2017 and we’re pleased to report on the significant progress being made by two of our mission providers.

Moon Express Microlander
Artist’s rendering of a Moon Express lander on the lunar surface. MoonEx is one of our Luna Service providers.
Three craters at the Moon’s south pole named after geographer Arnaldo Faustini, Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton and planetary scientist Eugene Shoemaker.
Three craters at the Moon’s south pole named after geographer Arnaldo Faustini, Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton and planetary scientist Eugene Shoemaker. The Celestis Luna 01 mission, carrying a portion of Eugene Shoemaker’s ashes aboard NASA’s Lunar Prospector spacecraft, impacted Shoemaker crater on July 31, 1999.

Celestis made history in 1999 when NASA requested our assistance to honor the memory of Dr. Eugene Shoemaker – the esteemed astronomer and scientist/teacher for the Apollo astronauts – by placing a symbolic portion of his ashes aboard the Lunar Prospector spacecraft. Our Luna 01 memorial spaceflight remains the only commercial lunar mission in history. Celestis is poised to make history again when we honor the memory of Mareta West – NASA’s first woman astrogeologist – and dozens more by launching their ashes to the moon aboard our Luna 02 mission. We have contracted with two potential mission providers for our Luna services — Moon Express, Inc. and Astrobotic, Inc. — and will select one of them to provide the Luna 02 mission. Both of these companies have recently made significant announcements and great progress toward the goal of a commercial lunar mission. We are proud to be customers.

Moon Express, Inc. and Google recently (12/8/15) announced the achievement of a significant milestone – the official verification of a launch contract that will send a Moon Express MX-1E micro lander to the lunar surface in pursuit of the Google Lunar X Prize. Celestis payloads are scheduled to be aboard the micro landers.

This certification by the Google Lunar X Prize Evaluation Committee is a key eligibility requirement to contend for the prize. Moon Express is only the second global contestant to obtain it. Moon Express will use a Rocket Lab Electron rocket to launch its spacecraft to the moon.

The State of Florida recently announced a matching $1 million grant to assist Moon Express in the further development of their test facility at Cape Canaveral, Florida. We are excited at the progress demonstrated by Moon Express and look forward to conducting several lunar missions with them as host.

Astrobotic, Inc. is the team founded and led by legendary technologist Dr. Red Whittaker of Carnegie Mellon University. Astrobotic has received funding from NASA to develop technologies related to its Griffin lunar rover, and has engaged corporate sponsors from Japan and other nations built around the Astrobotic mission.

Astrobotic lander over the Moon
Artist’s rendering of an Astrobotic lander approaching the Moon.

More recently, Astrobotic has extended the scope of its mission partners to include contributions from teams in Chile and Japan. In June 2015, Astrobotic announced an agreement with the Mexican Space Agency (Agencia Espacial Mexicana – AEM) to deliver Mexico’s first payload to the moon.

Celestis was one of the earliest payloads of interest for Astrobotic – we applaud their success and expect to fly multiple missions aboard their spacecraft.

The Celestis Luna Service – which can be pre arranged or purchased at time of need – is among our most popular choices. Because all lunar missions are very limited in the amount of secondary payload space available, we cannot guarantee access to the mission of your choice unless you’ve made a reservation. Click here to review options and contracts.

Apollo 15 commander Dave Scott placed this fallen astronaut memorial on the lunar surface in 1971 to commemorate the 14 U.S. astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts who had died exploring space.
Apollo 15 commander Dave Scott placed this fallen astronaut memorial on the lunar surface in 1971 to commemorate the 14 U.S. astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts who had died exploring space.

Earth’s nearby neighbor has beckoned to us through the ages. When, beginning in the 1960s, humanity took its first baby steps toward becoming a multi planet species – the Apollo program – it was only natural that our astronauts conducted the first lunar memorial service. During the Apollo 15 mission, astronaut Dave Scott placed a plaque on the surface of the moon commemorating the lives of 14 fallen astronauts and cosmonauts.

Decades later NASA would sponsor a second lunar memorial service with the flight of a symbolic portion of Eugene Shoemaker’s cremated remains to the Lunar South Pole. The lunar crater where Eugene Shoemaker rests in a Celestis flight capsule was subsequently named in his honor.

By making your departed loved one a part of an upcoming Celestis lunar mission, you help support the further exploration of the Moon. Consider making your loved one a part of space history with the Celestis Luna Service.