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Friday, August 07, 2009


In discussion on a private space launcher advertising satellite payload launches at $8,000 (£5,000) sized 13.5cm long. 8.7cm diameter, Jerry Pournelle said:
A long time ago (after announcement of the Shuttle but well before any Shuttle ever flew) NASA had a $10,000 satellite program. (It was called fast getaway or some such). It was announced at a AAAS meeting, and that evening Poul Anderson and I came up with the notion of the Light Perpetual Institute which would offer eternal rest and light perpetual by lofting ashes into orbit where they would be ejected by a spring; the solar wind would carry at least some portion of the ashes out of the solar system, so that light perpetual would indeed shine on the remains, so long as you define light perpetual in a reasonable way. We made preliminary efforts to form the Institute, and NASA was of course horrified. NASA subsequently changed its regulations to forbid that or indeed any other purely commercial enterprise associated with the Getaway Specials, and of course, once the actual cost/flight of the Shuttle was determined, the entire program was abandoned.

I expect it could still be made to work given the cost of funerals now, but it would take a good bit of capital and a lot of ingenuity to get a private launch program allied with someone experienced in the funeral industry, plus regulatory specialists. Not something a couple of science fiction writers could throw together. Oh. Well.

I assume a tube that size could hold several sets of ashes (I must admit I don't actually know) & for a lower cost option you could send only 10% of your ashes across the universe & scatter the rest in a favourite place. I think that this has commercial possibilities matching space tourism but lets see:

Would you like to be able to have your ashes scattered in space where, under light pressure over billions of years, they could spread across the galaxy
Under no circumstances
Yes I would be willing to have my estate pay 10,000 pounds for it
Yes, I would be willing to have my estate pay 5,000 pounds for it
Yes I would be willing to have my estate pay 2,000 pounds for it
I would like some of my ashes scattered this way, for a more modest fee, but would prefer most of them scattered on Earth free polls


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