Star Trek’s creator and crew were launched into deep space towards their final resting place this week – successfully piggybacking on NASA’s attempt at its first moon landing in decades – but a second moon burial spaceflight, also carrying dozens of human remains, has been abandoned. The fate of those remains? Cybernews has the details.
Two space burials involving the human remains of dozens of earthlings were blasted into the atmosphere this week – the Tranquility and the Enterprise flights, but only one will make it to its destination.
Celestis, the company in charge of both space memorial flights, has been closely monitoring the status of the NASA mission since its January 8th, Monday morning launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The memorial spaceflight company told Cybernews on Tuesday that its Enterprise flight had successfully completed its mission as originally planned, while the Tranquility mission has now been confirmed abandoned.
"Given the propellant leak, there is, unfortunately, no chance of a soft landing on the Moon. However, we do still have enough propellant to continue to operate the vehicle as a spacecraft," the space robotics company Astrobitic announced late Tuesday.
The USS Enterprise reboot
The Enterprise flight has gained notoriety this past year for containing the cremated remains of beloved Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, his wife Majel, and several popular cast members of the original series who have since passed.
The memorial flight is set to orbit around the sun permanently.
Aptly named after the starship from the series, the Celestis payload, known as the Enterprise Flight, "remained on Vulcan’s Centaur rocket and was not affected,” according to Celestis spokesperson Pazia Schonfeld.
“The flights are on two completely different spacecraft that separated 50 minutes after launch,” Schonfeld explained.
The deep space-bound flight “met all three of its engine burns to set it on course for its final heliocentric orbit. It’s on its way. It’s successful,” she said. “When it reaches its final orbit, the name will change to the Enterprise Station.”
Besides the Star Trek creator and crew, the flight also contained the ashes and DNA samples of nearly 180 other souls, as well as the Roddenberry’s living son Eugene.
"We were there brother, cheering you on! I have no doubt that you heard us. It was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," one family member wrote on Facebook.
The Tranquility memorial flight
Like the Vulcan Centaur, the ‘Peregrine’ lunar lander, created and manned by Astrobotic, was also attached to the powerful rocket when it blasted off from Cape Canaveral.
In partnership with NASA, the Peregrine had been outfitted with the Tranquility flight payload months ago with about 20 other payloads, most of them scientific and intended to gather lunar data for future human landings.
But after separating from the Vulcan, the Peregrine encountered technical issues only hours into what was supposed to be a 46-day flight ending with a soft landing on the moon.
On Tuesday, Astrobotic confirmed the worst, that a fuel leak on the Peregrine left 'no chance' for the spacecraft to make its planned landing on the northern quadrant of the moon, where it would have lived indefinitely.
With only 40 hours of propellant left at the time, engineers began to deploy as many of the Peregrine’s payloads as possible, but the Tranquility was always supposed to stay attached to the moon lander.
The fate of the Peregrine, which is carrying the remains of at least 60 more individuals inside Celestis’ specially manufactured and inscribed flight capsules, is still dependent on how the mission unfolds in real-time space.
Astrobotic's posted its eleventh update Wednesday evening on X.
"Peregrine remains stable and fully charged. The spacecraft continues to transmit valuable data. We are now 200,000 miles from earth, which is about 84% of the way to lunar distance," Astrobotic said.
Space trajectory unknown
The Tranquility flight payload, along with other mementos from Earth, including a MoonBox filled with thousands of individual messages, videos, and images from our planet’s inhabitants, would have been the first space memorial installed on the moon.
Celestis Co-Founder and CEO Charles M. Chafer put out a statement soon after Astrobotics scrapped the moon landing, although it seems as though families who have booked a memorial flight are well-advised to prepare for anything to go awry when it comes to space travel.
"Celestis has a performance guarantee that provides a no-cost reflight for our clients in the event the mission does not reach the intended destination, and for this reason, we already have collected sufficient flight samples to do so from our clients.”
As part of the Celestis space memorial, family members were given a choice to watch the launch in real time from Cape Canaveral.
Schonfeld said Celestis “always has families send in extra so that they can store a portion of DNA/Cremated remains for possible re-flight in case something goes wrong with the mission.”
“Also, many families decide to honor their loved ones on more than one mission,” she said.
Although Schonfeld points out the Tranquility was to remain "forever encapsulated on the Lander on the moon," family members will still be able to follow the Peregrine through Astrobotics and NASA, knowing that their loved ones have made it to their own final frontier.
Two more space memorial flights are set to take place later this year, the Serenity in October and the Destiny, date undetermined at the time of this report.
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