The Kuiper Belt Necropolis
The first ever extraterrestrial cemetery is set to launch next month, reports Wired: “On Dec. 6, the desert silence near Upham, New Mexico, will be shattered by the roar of a SpaceLoft XL rocket hurtling skyward from Spaceport America. The payload: individual capsules containing the ashes of 179 people, part of the Legacy Flight program, among them the late actor James (Scotty) Doohan and Gemini program astronaut Gordon Cooper.”
So will this new Kuiper Belt of micro-earths solve the high ecological cost of earthbound cemeteries? Not entirely, because there's a catch: “You're not actually 'buried' in space; you don't embark on an endless orbit of the Earth. The duration of the flight all depends on the apogee of the orbit, and can range from two to several hundred years, depending on the service the customer requests.”
Still, I do like the idea of gravesite visits reprogrammed, for instance, as a typical American suburban backyard barbecue. While the burgers and hotdogs are grilling, family and friends will consult NASA's Satellite Tracking service to determine the path of a spacebound crypt.
There will be a hubbub about vectors and declinations, some frantic ballyhoo about latitude and longitude. And there will also be a row about whether to use the metric system or English units, but then it's finally time. The lights are switched off, someone opens up a Bud Light, and everyone takes turns peering through the telescope as their dearly departed passes them by overhead.
Or maybe everyone will drive up to derelict observatories up in the mountains, made obsolete by more powerful telescopes or urban light pollution. A pilgrimage to necro-planetariums, through picturesque winding roads and autumnal colored forests.
When their orbit finally decays completely, they will then simply fall back to earth in a blazing, primordial meteor shower towards a cratered necropolis, their final impact coordinates having been picked, reserved and paid for centuries ago.
Columbiad Launch Services
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Nature is dead. Long live Nature.