NEWS RELEASE For Release: May 31, 1996 Contact: Chan Tysor or Charlie Chafer Toll Free: (800) 522-3217 Tel: (713) 522-7282 Fax: (713) 522-7380 E-mail: Celestis@iah.com Jim Spellman - NSS/Western Spaceport Chapter Tel/Fax: (619) 379-2503 E-mail: WSpaceport@aol.com
Bakersfield, Vandenberg AFB to play role in future Space Burial services 60's counterculture guru Timothy Leary's ashes to fly on "Founder's Flight"
BAKERSFIELD, CA (May 31) -- Celestis, Inc., the Houston-based company that plans to launch the cremated remains of several humans into Earth orbit -- including pop icon and 60's counterculture guru Timothy Leary, who passed away this morning in Beverly Hills -- is on track for its first launch between the last week of September and early October, company officials recently reported.
Celestis offers a unique approach for honoring and remembering recently departed individuals, while simultaneously opening the space frontier. The privately funded company offers to launch a symbolic 7-gram (0.25-oz.) portion of cremated remains in individually inscribed capsules aboard a special carrier attached to the top stage of a Pegasus XL or Taurus space launch vehicle. A number of appropriate alternatives are available for the final disposition of the balance of the cremains.
The satellites are launched under an agreement with Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC) of Dulles, VA, a leading provider of commercial space launch services which maintains a field office in Bakersfield. A special memorial service is given prior to the launch. The cremains would stay in orbit for 18 months to 10 years before burning up in the atmosphere as the orbit of the rocket stage decayed.
The prime mission for the Pegasus XL booster is Spain's Minisat-1. "Because ours is a secondary payload on a typical commercial space mission, we will not contribute to orbital pollution," stated Chan Tysor, president of Celestis. "Eventually, the satellite will reenter the atmosphere . . . blazing like a shooting star in final tribute to dear departed ones."
Celestis hopes to ride the growing wave of cremations in the United States, which account for 20% of all funeral services now and up to 40% by the turn of the century. The company seeks just one percent of the current cremation market. "One percent of the world will do just about anything," remarked Charlie Chafer, vice president of development at Celestis. "Space remains the domain of a few, the dream of many," added Mr. Chafer.
"With Celestis, the dream can finally be realized . . . a final chance to become part of the universe, by being at one with the universe."
At a cost of $4,800 per individual -- about the same as a standard cremation burial on Earth -- the company believes they can make money on the very first launch. The flight is slated to carry the ashes of a few notable pioneers from the aerospace and science fiction world into space.
"This first launch, called the 'Founder's Flight' will utilize *STARGAZER*, a modified Lockheed TriStar L-1011 jumbo jet that's based at Meadows Field Airport here in Bakersfield," stated Jim Spellman, executive director for the National Space Society's Western Spaceport Chapter, which covers Kern, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.
STARGAZER will fly the Pegasus XL launch vehicle up to its 40,000 foot release point above Vandenberg Air Force Base's Western Test Range over the Pacific Ocean. After a five-second freefall upon its release from the L-1011 aircraft, the booster's rocket engine ignites, powering its payload into low-Earth orbit after a brief eight minute flight.
"Among the notable cremains on the Founder's Flight will be 60's pop icon and counterculture guru Timothy Leary (who passed away Friday morning in Beverly Hills), *Star Trek* creator Gene Roddenberry and Dr. Gerry O'Neill, the Princeton University space physicist who originated the concept of orbiting space colonies," Spellman added. "Additionally, Todd Hawley, a founder of the International Space University who was a professional colleague of mine, as well as individuals associated with the development of the German V-2 and Apollo moon landing programs will be buried in space on this first mission."
The $4,800 price tag includes a personal invitation for surviving family members to attend the launch, a video of the memorial service and launch, updates on the orbital flight, a permanent memorial near a NASA space center, a memorial urn and a contribution to the Celestis Foundation.
The Celestis Foundation is a nonprofit group that focuses on nurturing entrepreneurial space enterprises, supporting organizations that educate schoolchildren and the general public about space, and contributing to charities that create a positive future on Earth.
A second launch, aboard a Taurus rocket, is planned for early next year from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California's Central Coast north of Santa Barbara.