A pair of companies in Maine are working together to create an out-of-this world final sendoff — launching the cremated remains of people and pets into space to be released over the Northern Lights.
BluShift Aerospace and Northern Lights Space Exploration announced this week they would partner together to offer the service.
Rounds of test launches at lower altitudes are expected to be completed by late 2023, with full launches over the Northern Lights planned for the first half of 2024, according to Sascha Deri, the CEO and founder of BluShift Aerospace.
The companies plan to transport one gram of remains in “micro-urns” in most cases, Deri explained in an interview.
The rockets would “deploy those micro-urns that will fall back down from space into the ocean,” he said.
Green burials. Aquamation. Human composting. As people around the U.S. are feeling the impacts of climate change, many death services companies are seeing an uptick in interest in eco-friendly disposal options.
During a webinar earlier this week, Deri was joined by Charlton Shackleton, a descendant of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton and managing partner of Northern Lights Space Exploration, who noted that those who choose to purchase a memorial experience with the group will, if all goes as planned, have a virtual reality component along with their launch.
“We’re working on trying to figure out the right method to get the VR experience because we want to be able to conduct that memorial service, share it with loved ones down here and let people experience their loved one, whether it be people or a pet, let them see them be released gently in the Northern Lights,” Shackleton said.
It would cost $750 to put ashes on the test flights, according to the website for Northern Lights Space Exploration.
There is also currently an option to place the ashes on a full-altitude flight after a deposit of $99.99, followed by another payment of $701 six months before the flight the remains would travel on.
Three photographers used weather balloons to send cameras into the stratosphere and capture breathtaking images of the Northern Lights. Autumn Schrock and Nate Luebbe, who produced the documentary “Light Side Up,” talked to LX News about hurdles they overcame to make their “crazy idea” a sensational reality.
Throughout the webinar, Shackleton also noted a key reason the partnership happened was because of the environmentally conscious fuel and methods that bluShift uses when it launches rockets.
The company’s rocket fuel is “not only a bio-derived, non-toxic fuel, but a carbon-neutral one,” Deri said.
“What it takes to grow our fuel source in the farm pulls more carbon out of the atmosphere than our fuel releases when it’s burned,” he added.
In short, the companies aim to reduce environmental harm while making space more accessible.
However, to launch in the way they’ve envisioned, bluShift and Northern Lights Space Exploration will likely have to get permission to launch rockets internationally, farther from bluShift’s home launch facility in Maine.
“Probably the biggest challenge we’ll be encountering is we’ll probably not be launching from our primary launch site, which is off the coast of Maine, but instead from other countries which have a more favorable view and access to the Northern Lights,” Deri said.