In the past, unconventional burials consisted of burials at sea or other unusual areas where the deceased or their family members wished to have the cremated remains spread. Today burials in space are possible, raising the bar to the unique places that you can call their final resting place. However, it is not yet possible to have one’s entire remains buried in space; instead, a sample of your ashes from cremation may be involved in a space burial.
Space burial consists of having a small percentage of your cremated remains, usually 0.04 – 0.5 ounces (1g-14g), propelled into space. The ashes are contained in a small tube and transported out of this world by way of a space craft or rocket. In most cases, more than one person’s ashes are carried and released into space at the same time to reduce costs, and rockets are not launched for the sole purpose of being buried in space. Therefore, people who wish to be buried in space must wait for launches that are scheduled for additional missions. Because only a small percentage of remains are buried in space, traditional earthly services and burials are also held.
The majority of space burials are projected into the earth’s orbit which is beyond the planet’s atmosphere but is not considered outer space. The human remains orbit the earth for a finite period of time before they fall back into the atmosphere and burn up upon reentry. This reentry prevents space pollution, also called orbital debris, and can take anywhere from two to several hundred years.
It is also possible to be buried in space at a greater distance than that of earth’s orbit such as that of the moon. Lunar orbiting space burials do not reenter the earth’s atmosphere in any human time frame, possibly taking thousands of years before falling back to earth. Some remains are destined to go even further beyond the distance of Pluto which is considered deep.
Burial in space can be extremely costly and so only a relative few have found their final resting places there so far. For example, just 1 gram (0.035 oz) of a person’s ashes launched into deep space costs approximately $12,500 US Dollars (USD). Those who are buried in space in the earth’s orbits can make burial arrangements for less, at a cost of around $1,300 USD.
Alternatives to being buried in space while still honoring one’s love for the cosmos include having a star named in a person’s honor or sending their remains for a round trip flight to space. These services cost much less than having the remains buried in space while still achieving a unique memorial.
Some famous people buried in space include Star Trek’s creator Gene Rodenberry and psychologist Timothy Leary. Scheduled to be buried in space in 2007 is Star Trek actor James Doohan and astronaut L. Gordon Cooper. Others considered to be buried in space include those that tragically lost their lives in space missions which includes many research animals.