Giving Tuesday: The Celestis Foundation

The Celestis Foundation was one of the earliest supporters of the XPRIZE

On this Giving Tuesday, we spotlight the XPRIZE – the global leader in designing and implementing innovative competition models to solve the world’s grandest challenges. The Celestis Foundation was one of the earliest donors to the XPRIZE — well before $10 million was raised to award the winner of the Ansari XPRIZE.

The XPRIZE, later titled the Ansari XPRIZE for suborbital spaceflight, motivated 26 teams from seven nations to invest more than $100 million in pursuit of the $10 million purse. On October 4, 2004, the Ansari XPRIZE was awarded to Mojave Aerospace Ventures for its successful flights of SpaceShipOne, marking the dawn of the personal spaceflight revolution and signifying a radical breakthrough in prize philanthropy.

White Knight & SpaceShipOne
Slung below its equally innovative mothership dubbed White Knight, SpaceShipOne rides above planet Earth, photographed during a flight test.  Photo Credit: Scaled Composites

The original XPRIZE was announced in 1996, offering a $10 million prize to the first privately financed team that could build and fly a three‐passenger vehicle 100 kilometers into space twice within two weeks. In 1997 Celestis hosted a Texas XPRIZE event at the Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston, Texas. Our event featured a presentation by Erik Lindbergh (grandson of Charles Lindbergh). Celestis CEO Charles Chafer served on the XPRIZE’s earliest Advisory Board.

Catherine and David Hannah, together with Eric Lindbergh
Catherine and David Hannah, Jr., founder of Space Services Inc. of America, with Erik Lindbergh (right) at the 1997 Texas XPRIZE event at the Lone Star Flight Museum.

The Celestis Foundation shares your dedication to promoting innovative projects that improve life on Earth and stimulate our ongoing exploration of the universe. When you select a Celestis Memorial Spaceflight for a loved one or yourself, you are also making a real contribution to a positive, sustainable human future. A portion of the proceeds from each Memorial Spaceflight mission is donated to individuals, institutions, and organizations — such as XPRIZE — that embody the spirit and commitment of mission participants.

XPRIZE Founder and Executive Chairman Peter H. Diamonds, M.D. (center) at the 1997 Texas XPRIZE event at the Lone Star Flight Museum.

The Celestis Foundation ensures a continuing source of support for the people and projects that will accelerate the opening of the space frontier and the preservation of Earth. Learn more about the Celestis Foundation.

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British Funeral Flights

UK FlagMany British families have chosen Celestis funeral flights to commemorate the lives of their departed loved ones. Celestis encourages Britons interested in our unique space funeral services to work with Heavens Above Fireworks, which is our master distributor in the United Kingdom. The company is led by Mr. Fergus Jamieson of Epping, Essex.

“For over a decade Celestis has been fortunate to develop a strong, working relationship with Mr. Fergus Jamieson. We are thrilled to work with Mr. Jamieson and our cooperation with his company over the years has always been very professional and prompt,” says Chris Chol, Director of Client Services. “We appreciate the dedication and efforts that Mr. Jamieson has devoted to offering funeral flights to his clients. It is truly inspiring to work with him to bring the dream of spaceflight one step closer to reality to our families in the UK, and contribute together to our future in space exploration.”

Eileen Stanford
British Celestis participant Eileen Stanford

Mr. Jamieson said, “We at Heavens Above Fireworks were really pleased to be appointed the UK’s Master Distributor for Celestis. Although we primarily disperse cremated remains in spectacular Memorial fireworks displays, the opportunity to extend our product offering to real rockets was just too good to miss for us and our clients. We find working with Celestis a delight: The team is always charming and they liaise well with our clients.”

Heavens Above Fireworks offers customers fireworks displays that incorporate cremation ashes. Their goal is to create a happier memorable event rather than a traditional funeral memorial. Firework displays often happen several weeks or even months after the traditional funeral ceremony, after the initial grieving period, and offer the family a chance to come together to truly celebrate the life of their loved one.


Mr. Jamieson has worked hard to be the first and foremost company to offer scattering ashes by fireworks. He and those at his company are dedicated to bringing each family they work with a sense of respect for their and their loved one’s wishes. One of their clients called it “the icing on the cake.” The website says it best: “A happier way to say goodbye.”

Having such an excellent distributor in the UK helps Celestis reach a wider audience who might not have otherwise heard of us. It also allows clients in the UK to have a British contact who can address questions and concerns during the decision making process. Mr. Jamieson has also been so kind as to prominently feature Celestis on his own website.

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:

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.