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A Suborbital Rocket Carrying A NASA Astronaut's Cremated Remains Explodes After Launch

A suborbital rocket carrying a NASA astronaut's cremated remains explodes after launch. The rocket from UP Aerospace failed shortly after launch on May 1, exploding over the New Mexico desert just seconds after liftoff.

Paula M. Graham
May 04, 20231233 Shares24651 Views
A suborbital rocket carrying a NASA astronaut's cremated remains explodes after launch. The rocket from UP Aerospace failed shortly after launch on May 1, exploding over the New Mexico desert just seconds after liftoff. The rocket was carrying payloads for NASA, including over a dozen student experiments, and the cremated remains of a late NASA astronaut, Philip K. Chapman, and chemist Louise Ann O'Deen.

Suborbital Rocket Carrying NASA Astronaut's Cremated Remains Explodes After Launch

In a statement, Celestis confirmed that all 120 flight capsules for their mission were safe and unharmed, despite the destruction of the rocket. The company stated that the capsules would be returned to them as soon as the investigation by UP Aerospace and Spaceport America is complete and necessary fixes are implemented. Celestis also stated that their payload would be able to be relaunched.
The SpaceLoft XL rocket was carrying payloads from NASA's TechRise Student Challenge, a program that allows students from the sixth to twelfth grades to create science and technology experiments.

Rocket Carrying Astronaut's Remains Explodes After Launch

While the outcome of the flight was disappointing, Christopher Baker, Program Executive for the Flight Opportunities program at NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, expressed pride in the accomplishments of the TechRise student teams and stated that NASA would work on future opportunities for them to see their experiments in space.
The Aurora Flight mission for Celestis was also onboard the SpaceLoft rocket, which specializes in space memorial services by launching cremated human remains on microgravity journeys. In addition to Chapman and O'Deen, the rocket was carrying the remains of 13 other individuals. The failure of the SpaceLoft rocket is a reminder of the many factors that must go right for spaceflight and the importance of continuous improvement and review of processes.
Philip K. Chapman was the first Australian-born American astronaut and a member of NASA's Astronaut Group 6, the second group of scientist-astronauts. Although he was not able to go to space himself, he contributed significantly to NASA's preparations for the lunar missions during the Apollo era.
After the failed launch of UP Aerospace's SpaceLoft XL rocket carrying Chapman's cremated remains and those of other individuals, Celestis stated that they would review the details and share information with the families involved. Fortunately, the company only included a symbolic portion of the remains or DNA samples in their payload, allowing them to offer a complimentary reflight for all participants on their next mission, Perseverance Flight.

Conclusion

Celestis CEO Charles Chafer expressed confidence that UP Aerospace would identify and resolve the problem and that they looked forward to flying with them again when ready. Despite the setback, Celestis remains committed to their mission of providing space memorial services for individuals and families.
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