Singer-songwriter album given to Celestis

Celestis was recently given a gift in the form of music. Susan VanWarmer, wife of participant Randy VanWarmer, sent a newly released compilation album of her husband’s work in thanks and support of our mission. The album is called “Just When I Needed You Most,” also a hit single song in 1979, and contains nine never released recordings of songs found on rehearsal tapes in his studio.

Randy VanWarmer
Randy VanWarmer

Randy always carried the dream of becoming an astronaut. It shows in his songwriting with the song called “I’m Gonna Build Me a Rocket.” It also shows on the cover of his Terraform album; he’s wearing an Apollo 11 suit. Susan was able to fulfill his dream of crossing over into space and Randy was a participant on both the Explorers and Legacy flights and is also a participant on the upcoming New Frontier Flight.

Every quote in the liner notes, every description of friendship, described what a warm, thoughtful person Randy was, that he was a best friend to all. “Randy had a way of looking right into your eyes, that made you feel important,” said his friend Roger Earl.

The first song, #1 hit “I’m In A Hurry (And I Don’t Know Why)” will have your toes tapping the moment it starts playing. “Time and Money” stands out as well, with its rich, sassy saxophone lines and backup vocals. It’s reminiscent of The Commitments, the band from the movie of the same name. “There’s A Rhythm” also features some wonderful harmonies but with a more free-flowing feel that puts the listener in mind of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

What most striking about this album is its overall versatility. Some songs have a more country or folk feel, like John Denver, while some have that electronic, poppy feel not uncommon in the 80s. Randy’s voice comes through clearly and beautifully in every style. His style never sounds like imitation, but an honest and true representation of his talents.

You can read his full bio here and visit his website here. We’d like to say “thank you” to Susan vanWarmer for sending this album to us and sharing the music of Randy VanWarmer.

Celestis in South Korea

“Design is design is not design”

This year marks the 4th Gwangju Design Biennale in Gwangju, South Korea; it is the largest design exposition in the world.

The theme this year is a variation on “the way that is the way is not always the way,” the opening line of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. “Design is design is not design” asks people to look at design with a new vision, to ask where design can be applied to modern inventions. Where do creativity and vision overlap? When is design used to create bias or exclusion? “Its emphasis is laid on understanding the trends of domestic and international design and cultural phenomena and expanding publicity.”1   With this in mind all of the design fields represented are not be separated from each other and labeled but rather merged into a larger aesthetic display.

Celestis has Brendan McGetrick to thank for being present at this exceptional event. Mr. McGetrick is a curator for the UnNamed themed section which explores “the ways in which design alters perceptions, reinvents, and reveals hidden truths.”2  Fields of focus include virtual communication, bioengineering, permaculture and more. Celestis has been incorporated into an afterlife design section and our service video plays on a large screen.

Celestis certainly does alter perceptions and expectations about a funeral. The memorial spaceflight service for cremated remains has been called everything from fantastic, amazing, fulfilling, to creepy and strange. However you might choose to view the service, our goal here is to fulfill a dream, a desire, to provide for both the participant and the family. In the greater funeral world industry, it’s still a young service and we are honored to be a part of such a large honoring of design.

The event runs September 2 through October 23.



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Track Our Satellites with Starwalk

Celestis has had three successful orbital flights. Two of these flights were launched from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California and are still in Earth orbit today. Even better, they can both be tracked from your iPhone.

An application called Starwalk, from Vito Technology, makes this possible. It’s a visual pleasure of an application bringing you not just rich graphics but explanations of what you’re seeing. Simply download the application to your iPhone or iPad and point your device at the sky. The app will show you just what’s up there and it’s smart enough to know not only where you are but which way you are facing.

You can also search for various objects, like the satellites that contain our orbital funerals.

Celestis Earth Orbit liftoff
Launch of The Ad Astra Flight, Feb. 10, 1998, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Our first successful orbital mission was The Founders Flight, which launched in 1997 and re-entered Earth’s atmosphere May 20, 2002 northeast of Australia.   Our second orbital mission, The Ad Astra Flight, was launched in 1998 and is Celestis25160 in the Starwalk app. The third flight was The Millennial Flight in 1999 and can be found under Celestis26034. Maybe you’ll be able to step outside one night and see if you can’t see the satellite passing overhead either with the naked or or by pointing the Starwalk app in that direction.

The next orbital launch, The New Frontier Flight, is also going to carry ashes into orbit. The number for tracking that flight will be made available as soon as possible after the launch.

For those who use Androids, there’s the Google Sky Map application, though tracking satellites is not yet a feature.

You can also track our Earth-orbiting spacecraft via our website.

Celestis in France

Continuing to be a company of worldwide mention, Celestis was discussed in a recent lecture at a professional symposium of Crematorium Administrators in Beaune, France.

Pierre-Henri Therond spoke about the secularization of civil and religious ceremonies, the changing values associated with ceremonies and how professionals can work with these changes. Mr. Therond is the director of a company called Gracefully. Therond’s goal is to offer alternatives to traditional religious ceremonies while recognizing that all civilizations practice rites to celebrate the stages of life and that these celebrations bring us together both on an interpersonal and international scale. The company helps create ceremonies specific to the honoree, one that fits like a glove.

For funerals, Gracefully proposes a service or celebration that reflects the image of the deceased and to make the occasion touching and unique. Many of Mr. Therond’s clients who come to him for funeral services are looking to plan their own funeral. These people seek to plan something that truly expresses who they are and what their life is about. Those planning for others are often trying to ensure that there’s a sense of dignity to the proceedings.

It’s an overall ideal that’s well and succinctly explained on Gracefully’s wedding page. “It is the celebration that must adapt itself to the couple and not the inverse.” The idea being that celebrations shouldn’t come with a one-size-fits-all mentality but that you have options and are encouraged to explore those options to make the ceremony right for you.

Mr. Therond’s speech was well received by the French audience and we thank him for including us in his speech about the changing funeral industry environment.

World Space Week

From October 4-10 people all around the world will come together to celebrate World Space Week, the largest space event here on Earth. The theme this year honors Yuri Gagarin who became the first man in space on April 12, 1961. Only 3 countries and one company have successfully achieve manned spaceflight though several others are developing the technology.

Newspaper headline about Yuri Gagarin's historic flight
Newspaper headline announcing Yuri Gagarin's historic flight into space on April 12, 1961. CREDIT: NASA

The first World Space Week was declared in 1999 by the United Nations General Assembly “[t]o celebrate each year at the international level the contributions of  space science and technology to the betterment of the human condition.” The guiding forces behind the event are the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA). Other major affiliates include Turksat, SpaceX, the Secure World Foundation and

World Space Week is an event designed for everyone, from government agencies to individuals, everyone is invited to host an event celebrating some of the amazing contributions spaceflight has brought humans. The goals of these events are to inspire a new generation to continue pushing foward, to bring the many space oriented programs and companies to the spotlight and to create an international community of people.

Higlights from 2010 included a Water Rocket firing competition for school students in Karachi, Pakistan and a regional rocket launch launch in Alabama called Rocktober skies. On the calendar for this year is Tea with the Stars in Brazil and an Energy Systems Technology & Education Center (ESTEC) open house in the Netherlands. There are also plenty of film showings, seminars, classes and viewings on the calendar.

For ideas and materials to help you get started and spread the word visit You don’t have to do something huge to participate. You can attend a talk, host a showing of your favorite space film, or donate to a space-related cause. They even provide free downloads of this year’s and all previous years’ poster to help you get the word out. Teachers take note, there’s a special guide just for you to plan some space-related lessons.

We encourage you to participate in this exciting week, no matter where you might live.

Honoring Naval Aviation and All Veterans

Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue
A rescue at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard.

This year we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation, and honor the aviators and support personnel who have served in the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard. In fact, Celestis would simply like to say ‘thank you’ to all the men and women who have served in any of the military branches around the world.

The rigorous and exacting training it takes to serve in naval aviation has paved a direct road into other aerospace careers. In fact, the first seven astronauts, known as both the “Original Seven” and “Astronaut Group 1,” were all test pilots in the military before they earned a place with NASA. Several of the participants aboard The New Frontier Flight made their way through the military into a lifetime career in aerospace.

Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper
Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper

One of these Original Seven will be entering into Earth’s orbit one last time. L. Gordon Cooper, who became the first man to sleep in space while he orbited the earth 22 times on NASA’s Mercury 9 flight, will be on our New Frontier Flight. He started out in the Marine Corps before working in other branches of the armed forces.

William Reuel Barnett, Jr. joined the Navy after graduating high school. After his time with them he continued his education and earned a degree in mechanical engineering. “The Quiet Man of Rocket Engines” would work on such projects as the top secret B-58 Hustler Project and the “Pluto Project.” Never once did an engine of his design and installed under his direction fail during takeoff.

Another mechanical engineer, Albert (Bert) Fabre, was first an apprentice moulder in the Royal Naval Dockyard. Astronomy was one of his hobbies and cold nights didn’t deter him from aiming his telescope skywards.

William Paul Peterson
William Paul Peterson

For others, a simple love of space and flight kept on after serving. William Paul Peterson served in the Air Force. Science fiction and the idea of time travel fascinated him; this memorial spaceflight will be his third memorial service.

We look forward to our next space mission, The New Frontier Flight, as a way to honor these veterans and many others. We invite you to read the stories of our New Frontier Flight participants. For more information about events nationwide for the 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation visit

Finally, we also express our thanks in a very tangible way by extending a 10% discount off of our various memorial spaceflight services to veterans of all nations and branches of service.

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Museum Exhibit Honors Celestis Participant

An exhibit in the Tulsa Air and Space Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma honors those who have journeyed into the sky. From the very beginnings of flight and wooden aircraft to the sophisticated metal crafts of the space age those who have reached the sky are honored.

Greg Brown
Gregory Brown

One part of the exhibit is of especial mention. This particular installation debuted on July 2, 2008 and is dedicated to the life and dreams of a young boy named Gregory Brown, the first Oklahoman in space. Born December 31, 1984 his mother described him as a smiley and silly baby. As he grew up to be a boy who loved anything to do with science fiction, NASA, space, the shuttle program, Star Wars… all of it. Legos were one of his favorite tools to build the models of the rockets and planes he so admired.

When he was just 14, Greg died of complications from his leukemia treatments. His mother, September Brown, knew that a Celestis space burial was the right choice for her son. Greg is now orbiting earth on board The Millennial Flight which was successfully launched on December 20, 1999.

Nine years later the exhibit in Tulsa would open. The display highlights his love of space, his fight with leukemia and the tributes he was paid after his death. Fitting for one who loved space, the display is full of artifacts from those who helped his dream become a reality.

Launch Pad Photo
Millennial Flight family members pose by the launch vehicle.

There’s a letter from his bone marrow donor, a member of the US Navy, officially stating that part of his remains had been buried at sea. His mother had contacted the donor, asking him to quietly disperse a portion of the ashes into the ocean. He went further and Greg was honored not just in private but with full honors, the crew turned out in their dress blues.

A letter and patch from the Navy commemorate his status as an honorary VR-1 Squadron Star Lifter member, a squad that had been entrusted with the transport of Congressman C.W. Bill Young.

There’s a letter from that same Congressman Young. He and his wife Beverly personally carried his donor marrow to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, touched by the Brown family’s struggle.

The display also contains some of Greg’s own model rockets that he didn’t just build but flew as well. There’s a teddy bear signed by his family, given to him for his bone marrow transplant. Several baseball caps adorn the display, two of them signed by astronauts and another by a tennis champion who is also dedicated to fighting cancer in children.

The balance of the display chronicles the launch of Greg’s cremated remains by Celestis. The process started with transfer of the cremated remains to the flight module, 90 days before the launch, and the integration of the Celestis craft onto the rocket. It was an Orbital Sciences Corporation Taurus rocket that took Greg to space. The Taurus team themselves honored the Brown family by choosing to sign the rocket “Greg Brown / To Infinity And Beyond,” under the Celestis logo.

And, aptly placed, the picture of Greg holding one of his model airplanes is right next to a picture of The Millennial Flight during takeoff in all its blaze of glory.

You can read more about Greg on the Celestis Web site and you can track The Millennial Flight’s orbit in real time here.

What Families Are Saying

Below are words from family members of Celestis Memorial Spaceflight participants, discussing their loved ones or expressing their feelings about our service.  We will post more testimonials in the future.

Majel Roddenberry
Majel Roddenberry

“This may be your final frontier. It’s a symbolic gesture, but it’s a celebration, more than anything. You ask yourself ‘What did a person love the most?’ If there is a spirit hanging around, where would he be the happiest? I know where Gene’s would be the happiest.” – Majel Barrett Roddenberry, quoted in “For 24 Dearly Departed, a Rocket Trip Around the World,” by Frank Arthens.  Note that Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was a participant on board Celestis’ first memorial spaceflight, The Founders Flight.  Both Gene and Majel will fly on our next Voyager deep space mission.

James McEachern
James McEachern

“Not long before he passed away he did admit the only dream that did not come true was to make it into space. I told him that somehow and someday I would try to make his last wish and dream come true. Thankfully I discovered Celestis and with their help JD’s dream will come true.” — The son of James McEachern, quoted from his father’s biography.

Alfred Floyd Turner
Alfred Floyd Turner

“We were able to fulfill our brother’s wish. It was like our last gift to him… For the last 30 seconds of the countdown, I was shaking. We were just so excited we brought him to that moment. It was so worth it” – Crystal Warren, sister of Alfred Turner,  quoted in “Family comforted as ashes mingle with stars,” an article in The News-Leader (Springfield, Missouri).  Alfred Turner was a participant on board The Legacy Flight, an Earth Rise Service mission, and will be on board our upcoming New Frontier Flight, an Earth Orbit Service mission.

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Getting Closer to Our Next Lunar Mission

The Celestis Luna Service reaches out to Earth’s nearest neighbor for a uniquely compelling location to remember a special life.  Celestis has an agreement with Astrobotic Technology, Inc. to launch a payload containing human cremated remains to the surface of the Moon as soon as 2013. Astrobotic reached a major milestone in June by assembling its lunar lander at Carnegie Mellon University and shipping it to a shake testing facility in California.

Astrobotic Lunar Lander
The Astrobotic Lunar Lander

Earlier this year Astrobotic signed a contract with SpaceX to launch Astrobotic’s robotic payload to the Moon on a Falcon 9 launch vehicle.  Astrobotic’s expedition will search for water and deliver payloads – including Celestis’ – with the Astrobotic robot narrating its adventure while sending 3-D video to Earth.  Liftoff could occur as soon as December 2013.

The Astrobotic Team
Members of the Astrobotic team that assembled the lunar lander, posing by the lander before the lander was shipped to California for shake testing.

The Falcon 9 upper stage will sling Astrobotic on a four-day cruise to the Moon.   Astrobotic will then orbit the moon to align for landing.  The spacecraft will land softly, precisely and safely using technologies pioneered by Carnegie Mellon University for guiding autonomous cars.  The rover will explore for three months, operate continuously during the lunar days, and hibernate through the lunar nights.  The lander will sustain payload operations with generous power and communications.

“The mission is the first of a serial campaign,” said Dr. William “Red” Whittaker, chairman of Astrobotic Technology and founder of the university’s Field Robotics Center. “Astrobotic’s missions will pursue new resources, deliver rich experiences, serve new customers and open new markets.   Spurred further by incentives, contracts, and the Google Lunar X PRIZE, this is a perfect storm for new exploration.”

Lunar Lander Assembly Video
Time lapse video that covers the second week of lander work, which includes both assembly and preparation for shipping.

“The moon has economic and scientific treasures that went undiscovered during the Apollo era, and our robot explorers will spearhead this new lunar frontier,” said David Gump, president of Astrobotic Technology.   “The initial mission will bank up to $24 million in Google’s Lunar X PRIZE, Florida’s $2 million launch bonus, and NASA’s $10 million landing contract while delivering 240 pounds of payload for space agencies and corporate marketers.”

In addition to Carnegie Mellon, where several prototypes have been built and tested, the mission is supported by industrial partners such as International Rectifier Corporation and corporate sponsors such as Caterpillar Inc. and ANSYS Inc.

Astrobotic Lander and Rover
Model of the Astrobotic Lander and Rover

About Astrobotic Technology

Astrobotic(TM) expeditions deliver payloads, scientific instruments and engineering experiments to the moon for space agencies, academic researchers and the media/marketing industries.  NASA awarded the company a $10 million contract in 2010 for access to the expedition’s engineering data on lunar landing technologies.  The company also has a NASA assignment to design a lunar mining robot to recover the frozen volatiles at the poles, which can be transformed into propellant to refuel spacecraft for their return to Earth.  Other expeditions will explore “skylight” holes and lunar caves as havens from temperature extremes, radiation exposure and micrometeorite bombardment.  Astrobotic also plans a robot to circle the moon, outrunning lunar sundown and avoiding the immobilizing cold of the two-week night.  More information is available at

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Celestis Salutes the Space Shuttle Program

Most of the people who fly on board Celestis memorial spaceflights had an interest in space exploration, science fiction and/or astronomy. Indeed, many Celestis flight participants have worked in the space program, either at NASA or for its contractors. (More info…)  So as NASA’s space shuttle program comes to a close, Celestis honors the space agency, astronauts, scientists, engineers, technicians, contractors, elected representatives and taxpayers who made the shuttle program a reality.

Astronaut holding "For Sale" sign
During Discovery’s second flight, launched on Nov. 8, 1984, another “first” was achieved — the deployment of two communications satellites and the retrieval of two others through the use of the manned maneuvering units. Above, astronaut Dale Gardner holds up a “For Sale” sign after capturing the satellites. Image Credit: NASA

In a sense, the space shuttle era began with science fiction. Before the shuttle could fly in space, engineers had to demonstrate that the spacecraft could fly in Earth’s atmosphere like a glider and land on a runway. So in 1977 NASA flew a number of atmospheric test flights of a shuttle NASA had originally intended to name “Constitution.” However, fans of the Star Trek television series mounted a successful letter-writing campaign to the White House urging President Ford to name the shuttle “Enterprise.” The Enterprise was never launched into space, and is on display at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, located near Washington Dulles International Airport.

Star Trek actors by the Space Shuttle Enterprise
In 1976, NASA's space shuttle Enterprise rolled out of the Palmdale, CA manufacturing facilities and was greeted by NASA officials and cast members from the 'Star Trek' television series. From left to right they are: NASA Administrator Dr. James D. Fletcher; DeForest Kelley, who portrayed Dr. "Bones" McCoy on the series; George Takei (Mr. Sulu); James Doohan (Chief Engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, and a Celestis flight participant); Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura); Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock); series creator Gene Rodenberry (a Celestis flight participant); an unnamed NASA official; and, Walter Koenig (Ensign Pavel Chekov). Image Credit: NASA

Starting with its first launch into space on April 12, 1981 with the space shuttle Columbia and continuing with Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour, the spacecraft has carried people into orbit repeatedly, launched, recovered and repaired satellites, conducted cutting-edge research and built the largest structure in space, the International Space Station. Who can forget the thrilling December 1993 Hubble Space Telescope service repair mission that repaired the telescope’s faulty optics, resulting in some of the most spectacular photos we have ever seen of the universe? Who can forget the flights of the Manned Manuevering Unit in the 1980s? On the other hand, who can forget the tragic losses of the Challenger in 1986, the Columbia in 2003 and, most importantly, the crews of those two missions?

Astronaut Bruce McCandless on a spacewalk using the manned maneuvering unit (MMU) on STS-41B, February 1984. Image Credit: NASA

Overall, though, the space shuttle program has had a successful launch rate. Like most spacecraft, though, the shuttle fleet experienced its share of launch delays, which result from technical or weather-related reasons. The Associated Press conducted a study in 2007 of shuttle launch performance and found that of the 118 shuttle missions that had flown by 2007, 47 were launched on time. Indeed, Celestis spacecraft often experience launch delays as well: This is par for the course in the aerospace world.

As we move forward into a new era of space exploration, marked by commercial launch services, nanosatellites, space tourism and other innovations, we honor the significant contribution of the space shuttle program to our future.

Space Shuttle

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