You Have Two Launch Opportunities in 2015!

In this video Suzan Cooper, wife of Mercury 7 astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, describes the launch of her husband on a Celestis memorial spaceflight as “the perfect experience.”  Another astronaut, William Pogue, will fly on our next Earth Orbit mission from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Launch Pad tour
Remembering a loved one during a Celestis launch pad tour

Celestis has two exciting memorial spaceflights scheduled for 2015:

Our 7th Earth Orbit mission is scheduled for liftoff in the 4th quarter of 2015 from historic Cape Canaveral, where the American space program began. The family of Skylab astronaut William Pogue, along with families of everyday people who shared William Pogue’s passion for space, have chosen to honor their loved ones on this Celestis memorial spaceflight.  If your departed loved one was also fascinated by the space program, marveled at the beauty of the night sky, or imagined what the future of humanity in space may be, consider including your loved one on this memorial spaceflight.

On November 5, 2015 we will launch our 7th Earth Rise mission, The Tribute Flight, from the majestic setting of Spaceport America, New Mexico.  For thousands of years Native Americans lived in harmony with the Earth and the skies above in what New Mexicans correctly call the “Land of Enchantment.”  Now, the Celestis Earth Rise launch from Spaceport America provides a way for everyone who, in life, felt an integral part of the universe to fly to the stars.

Should you decide to commemorate your departed loved one with a Celestis memorial spaceflight this year, it is fitting that — in addition to viewing your loved one’s flight into space and to attending other launch-related activities — you’ll be able to see unique points of interest related to space exploration.

Apollo Command Module KSC Visitor Complex
An Apollo Command Module display at the KSC Visitor Complex

Adjoining Cape Canaveral is NASA’s Kennedy Space Center where you can see the types of spacecraft and launch facilities that played a central role in the American space program.  The KSC Visitor Complex, the Astronaut Hall of Fame, the famed sands of Cocoa Beach are just some of the interesting places you can visit in the KSC area.  Should you choose our Nov. 5 Earth Rise mission at Spaceport America, you can visit the White Sands Missile Range Museum, the famous hot springs of the nearby city of Truth or Consequences, and the new Spaceport America Visitor Center in Truth or Consequences.

Important Note: Space is limited on both of these missions, and we integrate the cremated remains into each launch vehicle far in advance of each launch.  So to ensure your loved one will have a place on either flight, we recommend making your reservation as soon as possible.  Contact us for more information.

Remembering a Loved One with a Trip to the Moon

MoonLovers meeting in the moonlight, kids gazing at the Moon through their telescopes, dreamers wishing they could visit Earth’s closest astronomical companion, aerospace professionals who have helped astronauts actually visit the Moon … All appreciate the personal, cultural and historic significance the Moon has for people everywhere.  Celestis makes it possible for everyone to fulfill the dream of lunar travel with our Luna Service missions. Continue reading “Remembering a Loved One with a Trip to the Moon”

Rare NASA Memorial Spaceflight Honors Engineer

Orion capsule
Orion capsule mockup at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. (Clemens Vasters of Viersen, Germany)

This is the first in our new series of articles about the history of memorial spaceflights.

NASA marked a major milestone in December 2014 as its new Orion spacecraft completed its first voyage to space, orbiting Earth and traveling farther than any spacecraft designed for astronauts has been in more than 40 years.

Although NASA described the December 2014 mission as an “uncrewed test,” there was actually a crew of one on board.  A portion of the cremated remains of Patrick O’Malley flew on the 4 1/2 hour spaceflight.  O’Malley, a 37-year-old aeronautical engineer, had worked on the Orion program for over a decade.  After he passed away as a result of an undiagnosed brain illness, his co-workers at Lockheed Martin requested that a part of his cremated remains fly on this historic NASA mission.  His family supported the idea: both of his parents and his two daughters attended the launch.

As a memorial spaceflight, this Orion mission resembled a cross between Celestis’ Earth Orbit and Earth Rise service missions.  Like the next Celestis Earth Orbit mission scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2015, the Orion spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida and orbited our home planet.  But like the next Celestis Earth Rise mission scheduled for liftoff in November 2015, the Orion capsule returned O’Malley’s cremated remains to Earth.

NASA rarely launches cremated remains into space.  Indeed, this was only the fourth NASA mission to do so.  We’ll discuss the other three NASA missions in future blog articles about the history of memorial spaceflight.

Orion capsule recovery at sea
The USS Anchorage moves into position to recover the Orion space capsule on December 5, 2014. Like the cremated remains that flew on board this NASA mission, the cremated remains flown on Celestis Earth Rise missions are returned to families after spaceflight. (NASA)

Orion blazed into the morning sky of December 5, 2014 at 7:05 a.m. EST, lifting off from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Orion crew module splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, 600 miles southwest of San Diego.

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 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.

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

Celestis 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 Flight 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.

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…

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.