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”

Track Celestis Spacecraft Orbiting Earth

Celestis’ Earth Orbit service affordably launches a symbolic portion of cremated remains into space. Your loved one will venture into the final frontier as part of a real space mission, riding alongside a commercial or scientific satellite. The Celestis spacecraft is placed in Earth orbit where it remains until it reenters the atmosphere, harmlessly vaporizing like a shooting star in final tribute.  You can even track the satellite as it revolves around our planet!

Satellite track
Display from n2yo.com tracking the Celestis Millennial Flight as it flies over the United States

We have launched four memorial spaceflight missions into Earth orbit, two of which you can still track on our website:

Polar Orbit
Illustration of a satellite in polar orbit.  The satellite’s orbit is marked in red.  The satellite can be seen by people who are in the white band on the surface of Earth.  As the satellite orbits over the north and south poles, the Earth rotates from west to east (compare the left image with the right image).  As this happens, the white band — the area on Earth from which people can see the satellite flying overhead in the night sky — moves westward.  So over time, the satellite orbits over every point on Earth.  Image Credit: NOAA

The two Celestis spacecraft currently orbiting Earth — the Ad Astra and Millennial missions — do so in what’s called a “polar orbit,” meaning their orbits take them over the north and south poles.  Since the Earth rotates eastward beneath them, the two satellites fly over each point on Earth.  (See illustration at right.)  As of this writing, the Ad Astra memorial spacecraft takes approximately 101 minutes to complete each of its orbits, while the Millennial memorial spacecraft takes approximately 97 minutes to do so.

The length of time the spacecraft remains in orbit depends on a variety of factors: orbital altitude, the shape of the spacecraft, etc. While some missions may orbit the Earth for less than a day before reentry, others may orbit for centuries. Specific launch information is provided to you after the launch occurs and the spacecraft completes at least one successful orbit.

You can track our Earth 0rbiting missions online by visiting our website via the links above.  You can also track our satellites using the Star Walk app, which is, “an award-winning education app that allows users to easily locate and identify 20,000+ objects in the night sky. The 360-degree, touch control star map displays constellations, stars, planets, satellites, and galaxies currently overhead from anywhere on Earth.”  Star Walk’s display shows the position of each Celestis spacecraft against the constellations of the sky (e.g., Taurus, Aries, Cancer).

Satellite tracking software uses satellite flight data collected by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which updates its satellite tracking data periodically.  NORAD tracks all man-made objects in space.

In addition to tracking our Earth orbit missions, you should also be able to track our inaugural Voyager Service mission, the Sunjammer solar sail, which will travel into deep space.  Visit our online Launch Manifest for information about all of our exciting upcoming missions!

New Frontier Flight Reenters Atmosphere

Meteor enters Earth's atmosphere
Photo taken from the International Space Station of a meteor - a 'shooting star' - entering Earth's atmosphere Aug. 13, 2011 as the space station flew over China

The New Frontier Flight, a Celestis Earth Orbit Service mission that was launched May 22, 2012 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, has reentered Earth’s atmosphere, blazing like a shooting star in final tribute to the 320 people on board this historic memorial spaceflight.  Reentry occurred during the satellite’s 576th orbit of Earth at 10:22 pm CDT June 26 (3:22 am June 27).

The New Frontier Flight was dedicated to the spirit of the 320 mission participants and to people everywhere who share the passion for exploration and discovery. The spacecraft carried a symbolic portion of the cremated remains of each flight participant on Earth orbit. Among the people aboard this mission were Mercury Seven NASA astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, Star Trek actor James Doohan (who played “Mr. Scott”) and hundreds of people from various walks of life in the United States, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, China, India, Taiwan, Japan, Australia, The Netherlands, France, South Africa and Russia.

Reentry Map
The New Frontier Flight reentered Earth's atmosphere at 10:22 pm CDT June 26 (3:22 am GMT June 27) at an estimated position of 20°N, 111°E, over the South China Sea: See the red "X" in the map above.

Family Feedback

In light of the reentry, several Celestis families have written us, expressing their gratitude for our service.  “Thank you for keeping our family informed,” writes James Harmon, the father of New Frontier Flight participant Dane Kauffman Harmon.  “Our experience with Celestis has been first class from beginning to end.”  Jerry Norman, a funeral director for one of our clients, writes, “Thanks for the update!   Great service!”  And Todd Johnson, son of New Frontier Flight participant Nancy L. Johnson, writes, “Congratulations on a spectacular launch and successful mission!…  I love sharing our Celestis story with friends and strangers alike.  I love what Celestis offers. It’s not just about a launch.  It’s about a celebration – about dreams – about memories that will last my lifetime.  Thank you and everyone at Celestis for your hard work and perseverance to bring celebrations, dreams and memories to the families and friends of the launch participants. All of you make a difference in the lives of others.  I wish you the very best of success!”

Visit The New Frontier Flight webpage to see video of the launch.

Name That Mission!

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

We invite you to suggest a name for our next mission, which is scheduled for launch on June 21, 2013.  The winner of the contest will receive a mission patch that we have flown in space, together with a certificate of authenticity!

This launch will occur from Spaceport America, New Mexico, the site of each of our previous Earth Rise Service missions. We will fly cremated remains into space and return them to Earth: After the mission, the flight capsule or module that carried a loved one into space and back again is returned to the family, with the ashes still sealed inside. We will once again fly on board an UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL launch vehicle.

If you’re interested in the mission-naming contest, it might help you to consider the names of our previous memorial spaceflights.  We called our first mission “The Founders Flight.”  Our December 1999 mission was called “The Millennial Flight.”  And our last Earth Rise mission — “The Goddard Flight” — was named after the father of American space exploration, Dr. Robert Goddard, who performed much of his pioneering aerospace work in New Mexico.

Consider the venue — Spaceport America.  It’s a new launch facility that will serve as the headquarters of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space tourism company.  It’s also located near the White Sands Missile Range, where so much space history has been made.

Be creative!  If you have a suggestion, please contact usThe contest deadline is July 4, 2012.

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UPDATE (July 12): Aleta Duvall has won the contest!  The name of our next Earth Rise mission is The Centennial Flight, named in honor of the 100th anniversary of New Mexico’s statehood.  For her winning entry, Aleta will receive a Centennial Flight mission patch that will be flown on the mission.  Congratulations Aleta!  (And thanks to everyone who suggested names for the mission!)

What Families Are Saying

Celestis memorial spaceflights provide meaningful ways for families and friends to honor the memory of a loved one.  Whether they attend our launch-related activities in person or watch via webcast, families find the Celestis experience to be emotionally moving and fulfilling.

Below are just some of the comments made by family members of those on board The New Frontier Flight, launched into Earth orbit on May 22, 2012 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.  Those who traveled to Florida to view the launch in person also had the opportunity to view the rocket on its launch pad from the vantage point of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center,  and participate in our memorial service for those on board the flight.

Celestis New Frontier Flight Memorial Service
Attendees at the Celestis New Frontier Flight Memorial Service. Photos of each person on board the flight, together with their names and personal flight messages, were displayed on the screen at left.

Dear Christiana,

Now we have come to an end.  Mark’s ashes are orbiting and 5 years have passed since we started this journey together.

I remember first talking with you, getting information about the process of sending ashes into space. You were so understanding and compassionate as I vented and cried and told the story of how I came to be doing this.  You grieved along with me.

Astronaut Jon McBride speaks at the memorial service
Astronaut Jon McBride speaking at the memorial service

There are no words to express fully how much I appreciated you during those early days.  You became a trusted friend and helped me navigate through some tough decisions. You may not know that you did these things, but during our conversations I gained some measure of strength and found that I could get through all manner of difficult days.

Christiana, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  For extending your friendship to me, for keeping me in the Celestis loop of information, for caring enough to search and actually find me after I had re-married and changed my name and address. I can’t believe you did that!

You are an amazing asset to Celestis and a friend to all the family members you come in contact with every day.  I wish you Love & Blessings always

Johanna Wallace Mitchell  (Joey)

P.S.  I still think we should meet someday.

~~~

Family members speak at the memorial service
Family members share their thoughts at the memorial service

Bravo to you all this is the very best of news that  my loved one has now accomplished the dream to go into space.  For me it came at the anniversary of when my wife left this world six years ago almost to the day (May 21, 2006), making it extremely special.  This is a next step for all to help move forward in space travel for mankind!  Will be waiting for more news about the orbit and be able to track their orbit and go out in the night and look up and say there they go overhead.

Thanks again.

John Seaton

~~~

This has been soooooooo much fun! I’m so glad my father was able to be a part of this historic mission.

Gina Whitt

~~~

Families in procession
At the end of the memorial service, families and friends walked to a nearby river where they laid flowers in memory of their loved ones.

I cannot express how thrilled my family is about the launch.  It is truly a wonderful day.  We watched from our homes but we celebrated with the entire Celestis and New Frontier family.  Thank you, a million times over, for this opportunity.  This was the only idea about which Dad showed any enthusiasm as we talked with him about his memorial service – and oh, the enthusiasm he had for this.

Katharine Stewart

~~~

New Frontier Flight liftoff
Families viewed the nighttime launch in person or by webcast. Image Credit: NASA

We, at Celestis, thank all of the families and friends who have written us!  We will never forget joining many of you in the pre-dawn darkness of May 22 to watch the spectacular launch from Jetty Park, located just 10.3 miles from the launch pad. As the rocket lifted its precious cargo of New Frontier Flight participants into the night sky, the spirits of all of us at Jetty Park lifted as well. The brilliant light of the rocket’s powerful engines resembled the light of a very bright star rising ever so gracefully into the stars above. The crowd reacted with a joyful mix of applause, cheers, handshakes, hugs, and tears: Their loved ones’ dreams of spaceflight had come true. Those of you who joined us virtually, via the launch webcast, were also with us in spirit.

Click here to read more about the New Frontier Flight, view video of the launch, read about the people on board, and track the satellite as it orbits Earth.

Click here to view a touching television interview with one of The New Frontier Flight families.

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.

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  www.astrobotic.net.

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Liftoff!

Goddard Flight launch
Launch of The Goddard Flight from Spaceport America

What a wonderful day!  The UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL rocket carried the Goddard Flight into space this morning.  Liftoff occurred at 7:21 am MDT (8:21 am EDT, 1:21 GMT)  – what a spectacular sight!  You can view video of the launch here.

The crowd of onlookers – including high school and college students and their instructors, VIPs, and family members of those on board the Goddard Flight – applauded, cheered, jumped for joy, hugged one another … and cried.  These memorial spaceflight launches are always emotionally-moving experiences.

On a separate note … people were really interested in our Goddard Flight patches and pins — we had a little table set up in the assembly area and sold out of everything!

As we depart New Mexico, we will never forget the excitement and meaning of today — especially for those with loved ones on board the spacecraft.  We were truly honor their lives and memories aboard the Goddard Flight.

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The Goddard Flight’s Namesake

Robert Goddard
Robert Goddard

The Goddard Flight, Celestis’ tenth memorial spaceflight, was named in honor of Dr. Robert Hutchings Goddard, who is considered to be the father of modern rocket propulsion, and who conducted much of his pioneering research near Roswell, New Mexico. A physicist of great insight, Goddard also had a unique genius for invention.  Given Celestis’ innovative use of rocket technology to launch cremated remains into space from Spaceport America, it is only fitting that we paid tribute to this aerospace pioneer and longtime New Mexico resident.

Born October 5, 1882 in Worcester, Massachusetts, Goddard developed his interest in space and astronomy at an early age, inspired in part by H.G. Wells’ sci-fi classic, War of the Worlds, and by his parents, who provided young Robert a telescope and otherwise encouraged him to pursue a scientific career.  Goddard studied at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Clark University, earning his Ph.D. in 1911.  In 1914, Goddard received two U.S. patents. One was for a rocket using liquid fuel. The other was for a two or three stage rocket using solid fuel.  Note that The Goddard Flight carried the ashes of Earth Rise service participants into space on board a solid fuel rocket.

Goddard in group photo in NM
Standing in front of the rocket in the launch tower near Roswell, New Mexico on September 23, 1935, are (left to right): Albert Kisk, Goddard’s brother-in-law and machinist; Harry F. Guggenheim; Dr. Robert H. Goddard; Col. Charles A. Lindbergh and N.T. Ljungquist, machinist. Charles Lindbergh, an advocate for Goddard and his research, helped secure a grant from the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation in 1930. With that money Goddard and his wife moved to Roswell, New Mexico, where he could conduct research and launch rockets while avoiding the scrutiny and criticism of his colleagues and the press. Photo Credit: NASA

At his own expense, Goddard began to make systematic studies about propulsion provided by various types of gunpowder. His classic document was a study he wrote in 1916 requesting funds from the Smithsonian Institution so that he could continue his research. This was later published along with his subsequent research in a famous January 1920 report to the Smithsonian Institution entitled “A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes.”  In this treatise, Goddard detailed his search for methods of raising weather recording instruments higher than sounding balloons. In this search, he developed the mathematical theories of rocket propulsion.

Robert Goddard
Dr. Robert Goddard and his liquid oxygen-gasoline rocket in the frame from which it was fired on March 16, 1926, at Auburn, Mass.

Towards the end of his 1920 report, Goddard outlined the possibility of a rocket reaching the moon and exploding a load of flash powder there to mark its arrival.  The press picked up the story and severely criticized Goddard. For example, in its January 13, 1920 issue, The New York Times tore into Goddard, arguing that he, “… does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react…. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.”  The widespread public ridicule culminated in his being nicknamed “The Moon Man.”

By 1926, Goddard had constructed and successfully launched the first rocket using liquid fuel. Indeed, the flight of Goddard’s rocket on March 16, 1926, at Auburn, Massachusetts was as significant to history as that of the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk.

Goddard’s greatest engineering contributions were made during his work in the 1920s and 1930s. He received a total of $10,000 from the Smithsonian by 1927, and through the personal efforts of famed American aviator Charles A. Lindbergh, he subsequently received financial support from the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation, which financed his research in New Mexico.  Goddard spent a dozen years near Roswell, New Mexico with the support of the Guggenheim Foundation, further developing and testing his rocket designs.

While Goddard’s rocket work made little impression on American government officials of the 1920s and 1930s, German rocket scientists paid close attention: Goddard’s research largely anticipated in technical detail the later German V-2 missiles, including gyroscopic control, steering by means of vanes in the jet stream of the rocket motor, gimbal-steering, power-driven fuel pumps and other devices.  Indeed, Goddard inspected several captured V-2’s in 1945, confirming that the Germans had used his designs.  Goddard died later that same year from throat cancer.

Robert Goddard’s contributions to missilery and spaceflight would make a lengthy list.  Here are some of Dr. Goddard’s firsts:

  • Explored the practicality of using rocket propulsion to reach high altitudes and even the moon (1912)
  • Proved that a rocket will work in a vacuum, that it needs no air to push against
  • Developed and demonstrated the basic idea of the “bazooka” two days before the Armistice in 1918 at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
  • Developed and launched a liquid fuel rocket (March 16, 1926, Auburn, Mass.)
  • Launched a scientific payload in a rocket flight (1929, Auburn, Mass.)
  • Used vanes in rocket motor blast for guidance (1932, New Mexico)
  • Developed a gyro control apparatus for rocket flight (1932, New Mexico)
  • Received U.S. patent in idea of multi-stage rocket (1914)
  • Developed pumps suitable for rocket fuels
  • Launched a rocket with a motor pivoted on gimbals under the influence of a gyro

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, the Goddard Crater (located on the Moon’s eastern limb) and The Goddard Flight are all named in honor of this hero of space history.


Visit our new blog at www.Celestis.com/blog/

Launch Pad and Mission Control Tours

Today we traveled to Spaceport America and toured the launch pad and mission control.

We left the Elephant Butte Inn around 8:45 am and arrived at mission control about 45 minutes later.  There we were greeted by Tracey Larson of UP Aerospace and Dr. Pat Hynes of the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium (NMSGC), which is the primary sponsor of tomorrow’s launch.  Also present was Mr. Louis Gomez, who is one of the pioneers of Spaceport America.  Tracy delivered a presentation concerning the procedures mission controllers follow when they conduct a launch.   Pat discussed the NMSGC’s student launch program, and the importance of Celestis’ participation with the student launches each year.  Tracey, Pat and Louis then answered our questions during Q&A.

Celestis Goddard Flight family member at mission control
A family member of one of the participants on board our mission sitting at mission control today

After touring mission control we drove to the launch pad where we were met by UP Aerospace President Jerry Larson, Celestis CEO Charles Chafer, and UP Aerospace’s Bruce Lee.  These three gentlemen discussed the launch scheduled for tomorrow morning.   We learned that the nearby White Sands Missile Range tracks the SpaceLoft XL’s flight into space and return to Earth.  We saw where the Celestis payload is located on the SpaceLoft XL.

Celestis family member at the launch pad
The same Celestis family member posing by the SpaceLoft XL rocket during today's launch pad tour

We also learned some very interesting information about how UP Aerospace launches the SpaceLoft XL: Instead of using a launch tower like the space shuttle uses during liftoff, the SpaceLoft XL rocket launches from a ‘launch rail.’  In order to determine how to aim the launch rail, engineers have to take into account the various wind velocities through which the rocket will fly as it ascends through the atmosphere into space.  In addition to launching weather balloons, UP Aerospace uses a SODAR — a SOnic Detection And Ranging device — located near the launch pad.  The SODAR sends sound waves into the atmosphere to measure atmospheric turbulence.  Based on the wind velocities measured just prior to liftoff, UP Aerospace uses a computer to determine the optimal angle and elevation of the launch rail so as to launch the rocket on the best possible spaceflight trajectory.

Of course, we all had an opportunity to walk around the launch pad, go up to the rocket and actually touch it, and take photos.

After completing the launch pad tour we returned to the Elephant Butte Inn where we plan to get to bed early this evening as we have to leave quite early tomorrow morning for Spaceport America.  Launch is projected to occur as early as 7:00 am our time (9:00 am EDT, 1:00 pm GMT).

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