A small fraction of the cremated remains of 61 people will be flown to the Moon next July as part of the payload delivered by Astrobotic’s Peregrine Mission One lander. The payload is offered by Celestis, a company that provides memorial spaceflights. This particular one has intrigued people because among the many deceased whose ashes will be taken to the moon, there are the remains of science writer and futurist Arthur C. Clarke.
Clarke is known to most people for being the author of 2001 – A Space Odyssey, a book in which an ancient alien civilization left one of its peculiar monoliths on the Moon. In the novel, this monolith is found in Tycho crater, but that is not where the Peregrine mission is landing. More aptly, the Astrobotic mission will land in a basaltic lava plain known as Lacus Mortis: the lake of death.
Lunar memorials started with the 1998 flight of the remains of Dr Eugene Shoemaker, who among his many accomplishments was the discoverer of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with his wife Dr Carolyn Shoemaker and David H. Levy. The comet is famous for hitting Jupiter in 1994. The Shoemakers were in a car-crash in 1997 that was fatal for Eugene.
Some of his ashes were flown aboard NASA’s Lunar Prospector. The mission was not a lander but an orbiter and designed to be deliberately crashed inside a crater in perennial darkness near the lunar south pole in July 1999. The Peregrine Mission One Lander will be the second lunar mission for Celestis.
There is also a second company, Elysium Space, that will send a portion of people's remains to the Moon on board the Peregrine lander. The mission will also deliver a system that broadcasts a message of peace and goodwill from the Moon created by AngelicvM Swiss Space Endeavor.
The location of Lacus Mortis is of great scientific value. The area is a large basaltic plane 151 kilometers (94 miles) in diameter and marked by a sizable crater surrounded by a series of crisscrossed depressions known as rilles. These are believed to have been created from lava tubes.
The lander will carry several small rovers, including one from Astrobotic itself, which will explore the surrounding terrain and provide data regarding the geology of the area.