Eugene M. Shoemaker

Eugene M. Shoemaker
Eugene M. Shoemaker
April 28, 1928 – July 18, 1997

Celestis provided its first Luna Service mission by helping friends of noted planetary geologist Dr. Eugene M. Shoemaker include a symbolic portion of Dr. Shoemaker’s remains on the NASA Lunar Prospector mission launched January 6, 1998.

The spacecraft impacted the lunar surface inside a permanently shadowed crater near the south lunar pole, creating a permanent monument to Dr. Shoemaker. Impact occurred at 4:52 a.m. CDT (9:52 a.m. GMT), July 31, 1999.

Dr. Eugene M. Shoemaker, a pioneer in the exploration of the Solar System, had longed to go to the Moon as an Apollo astronaut and study its geology firsthand. A medical condition diagnosed in the early 1960s prevented him from doing so. Dr. Shoemaker went on to help select and train Apollo astronauts in lunar geology and impact cratering. His achievements in these areas earned him the United States’ highest scientific honor, the National Medal of Science in 1992. He became world-renowned when he, his wife Carolyn, and astronomer David Levy discovered Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which impacted the planet Jupiter in July 1994.

Lunar Prospector
Lunar Prospector Image Credit: NASA

Lunar Prospector was one of the most productive, least expensive space missions. Part of NASA’s Discovery Program, Lunar Prospector served as a follow-on to the successful Clementine mission of 1994. In 1994, the Clementine spacecraft orbiting the Moon made observations that indicated the presence of water ice on the lunar surface. On March 5, 1998, it was announced that Lunar Prospector had also found evidence suggesting the presence of water ice at both lunar poles.

The presence of water ice on the Moon would facilitate future attempts at lunar colonization. How fitting that Dr. Eugene Shoemaker participated in one last experiment — an experiment that could benefit our future in space.

Listen to an interview with Carolyn Shoemaker about how fitting her husband’s lunar burial was.

The next Celestis Luna Service mission is projected to launch next year.


Gerard K. O’Neill

Gerard K. O'Neill
Gerard K. O’Neill, 1927-1992, “Your wish is fulfilled”

History often accords to a selected individual the role of catalyst, the spark who creates a social, political, or economic paradigm shift. Surely Gerry O’Neill was such an individual.

Dr. O’Neill was an accomplished experimental physicist, successful entrepreneur, pilot, inventor, astronaut candidate, devoted family member, and gifted professor who constantly challenged and inspired his students.

Indeed, it was a class exercise — first year physics at Princeton University — which started Dr. O’Neill on a path that would ultimately lead him to establish the modern conceptual, theoretical, and technical foundation for the large-scale human colonization of space.

During the course of this work he wrote several books, including the award-winning The High Frontier; served as an adviser to NASA and the Congress and as a member of the President’s National Commission on Space; and founded the Space Studies Institute (Princeton) to support the scientific research required to carry out his vision.

Today, Gerry O’Neill’s legacy continues through his Space Studies Institute and through the lives of people around the world who were touched by his message — and who consequently are devoting their lives to the extension of humanity into space.

“…I think there is reason to hope that the opening of a new, high frontier will challenge the best that is in us, that the new lands waiting to be built in space will give us new freedom to search for better governments, social systems, and ways of life, and that our children may thereby find a world richer in opportunity by our efforts during the decades ahead.”

–G.K. O’Neill, The High Frontier, 1976

“(Gerry’s) brilliance, his reason, his drive, and his creativity each garnered his well-deserved renown. But I respected him most, and will remember him best, for his commitment to fairness and equity.”

–Richard J. Pinto , May 1992

“Gerry O’Neill was a man of great vision, courage, and intelligence – a type too often in short supply in this world. His dramatic and inspiring descriptions of future space colonies challenged us to confront the gap (often maddeningly wide) between technical capacity and political will. Through his research, business pursuits and educational programs, he did much to sustain our vision of a bold, space-faring future.”

–Kathryn D. Sullivan, May 1992

Gerard K. O’Neill flew on the first Celestis Memorial Spaceflight, The Founders Flight.

NASA memorial spaceflight that carried astronomer to Pluto

On July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto, carrying a small amount of the ashes of American astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh, along with the dreams of all who, like this Kansas farm boy, gazed toward the heavens in the name of exploration and discovery. New Horizons, the first mission to Pluto, provided the closest look ever at the ninth planet while completing the initial reconnaissance of the solar system.

When Tombaugh discovered Pluto in 1930, he opened the gateway to an unknown region of ancient, icy objects unlike any worlds in our solar system — and touched off a revolution in our understanding of Earth’s ever-expanding planetary neighborhood. Continue reading “NASA memorial spaceflight that carried astronomer to Pluto”

Klaus Karl Rheinhold Ernst Sachse

Klaus Karl Rheinhold Ernst Sachse
Klaus Karl Rheinhold Ernst Sachse, 1929-1991, “To dwell among the stars!”

Klaus Karl Rheinhold Ernst Sachse’s passing went by with little notice by this world, save for a handful of family members and a small contingent from the tennis/curling club to which he belonged. Klaus Karl Rheinhold Ernst Sachse was not renowned for anything in particular, nor accomplished in some noteworthy endeavor. However, he did make a difference in the lives of his three children and three grandchildren; and as such, left a priceless legacy.

He was a rather stoic and extremely private man – rarely given to outbursts of emotion. He was also a proud man who tried to live his dream until the dream was all that was left to him. He held inside of himself a spark and a vision that he passed on to his children. In the grand cosmic scheme of things he was an ordinary man who dreamed of a greater life. And that life was to be lived among the stars!

Klaus Karl Rheinhold Ernst Sachse was born in AngerMeunde, Germany and moved to Toronto, Canada in 1955. As a young man, he was always fascinated with space exploration. His dream then was to help build the engines that would send jets and rockets into space – so a part of him would be up there as well. This noble goal, however, was not to be, but he never lost sight of this dream. He followed the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo projects very closely and with each launch a part of him went along for the ride. One of his greatest sorrows was Canada’s loss of the Avro Arrow from which Canada would “never fully recover.”

Though unassuming, his early life was marked with hardship during the war and tragedy with the loss of his parents at age ten. He found work as a coal-miner and saved his money until he had earned enough to come to Canada. The prime of his life was spent “Doing the right thing” by his family, which kept him away from his home as well as his dream. He enjoyed the few times when he could take his kids for trips to various open fields in order to launch their rockets and experimental vehicles. He enjoyed “Star Trek” and found a kindred spirit in the lives of those explorers. He began consuming science fiction novels by the “Thewsands.”

His later years were spent building models, puttering around in his garden, exploring culinary adventures; and of course, enjoying the company of his small circle of friends and family.

Thanks to Celestis, we can now, a decade after his passing, honor his wish and fulfill his life-long dream by sending him to the stars that were always his real home.

His spark is alive in those who remember and still love him. We still miss you very much, Dad.

With all our love,

Frank, Ron, Monica, Jessica, Nate, Eric (and Tara)

Klaus Karl Rheinhold Ernst Sachse flew on two Celestis Memorial Spaceflights:

  • The Legacy Flight from Spaceport America, New Mexico
  • The New Frontier Flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida

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. 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 Robert Goddard…


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 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:

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 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