First US moon launch in decades to include ‘space burials’

First US moon launch in decades to include ‘space burials’

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The first moon launch in the United States in more than 50 years is slated to take off early Monday morning with space burials in tow.

Astrobotic lunar lander Peregrine is set to launch at approximately 2:18 a.m. ET on Monday on top of United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur Rocket. This launch is also a part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS), which is a program that aims to work with American companies to bring commercial deliveries to the moon.

“We are so excited to see this vision become a reality. CLPS is an innovative way of leveraging American companies to send important science and technology payloads to the Moon,” said Nicola Fox, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

“The Moon is a rich destination for scientific discovery. Studying and sampling the lunar environment will help NASA unravel some of the greatest mysteries of our solar system for the benefit of all.”

Peregrine will be carrying 20 payloads of cargo from governments, companies, universities and NASA’s CLPS, according to Astrobotic’s website. NASA will send five of its own payloads, which will include instruments and other tools for its scientists to learn more about the moon.

Space companies such as Celestis and Elysium Space are sending memorials and human remains on the flight to honor scientists, friends, family and public figures. Astrobotic had come under fire in recent weeks for its partnership with those two space memorial companies. 

Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren sent a letter to NASA last month urging the agency to delay the moon launch to consult with the Navajo Nation about concerns over sending human remains to the moon.

“We believe that both NASA and the [Department of Transportation] should have engaged in consultation with us before agreeing to contract with a company that transports human remains to the Moon or authorizing a launch carrying such payloads,” he wrote at the time.

NBC News reported that John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic, said Friday he was “disappointed” the concerns were not raised earlier.

“I hope we can find a good path forward with Navajo Nation,” he said, according to NBC.

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