Navajo Nation, saying it's a 'sacred' place, up in arms after private company sends cremated remains to the moon

In a day when people look to search high and low for something about which to be offended, the following probably takes the proverbial cake. 

According to CNN, a Native American group is up in arms after a private company launched a rocket to the moon to deposit human remains on the celestial body’s surface. Last week, CNN reported that the Navajo Nation objected to plans to ferry cremated remains to the moon, claiming the moon “holds a sacred place in Navajo cosmology.” 

So vital was this objection that a last-minute White House meeting was convened to discuss the matter, CNN reported. It isn’t like the White House has much on its plate, including the foreign invasion at the southern border, the possibility of World War III breaking out, and Joe Biden’s inability to navigate his way from Marine One to the White House. 

The Navajo Nation asked the administration to delay the flight, citing the mission as an insult to Native American cultures, which worship the moon. 

“The moon holds a sacred place in Navajo cosmology,” Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren said. “The suggestion of transforming it into a resting place for human remains is deeply disturbing and unacceptable to our people and many other tribal nations.” 

The lunar burial services are being offered by two private companies, Celestis and Elyslum Space, two of a handful of paying customers blasting off to the moon on the Pittsburgh-based Astobotic Technology’s Peregrine lunar lander. The unmanned lander would be the first American-made spacecraft to touch down on the lunar surface since the Apollo program ended in 1972. 

Whatever was going to be discussed at the White House didn’t pan out since NPR reported Peregrine Mission One launched into space Monday morning from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying several payloads to the moon, including the cremated remains of 66 people in so-called “memorial capsules.” 

The Celestis payload is called “Tranquility Flight” and is being sent to the moon “as a permanent tribute to the intrepid souls who never stopped reaching for the stars,” according to the company’s website. The lander is expected to touch down on the lunar surface on Feb. 23. 

In addition to the cremated remains, NASA is also sending five payloads on the mission. 

In response to Nygren’s concerns, Celestis CEO and co-founder Charles M. Chafer said, “Honestly, while we respect everyone’s beliefs, we do not find Mr. Nygren’s concerns to be compelling.” 

“We reject the assertion that our memorial spaceflight mission desecrates the moon,” Chafer said. “Just as permanent memorials for deceased are present all over planet Earth and not considered desecration, our memorial on the moon is handled with care and reverence, is a permanent monument that does not intentionally eject flight capsules on the moon. It is a touching and fitting celebration for our participants–the exact opposite of desecration, it is a celebration.” 

He also argued that religious beliefs shouldn’t enter into the equation concerning humanity’s ventures into space, noting that the company’s clients believe memorial spaceflights are “an appropriate celebration–the polar opposite of desecration.” 

NASA’s deputy associate administrator for exploration, Joel Kearns, said in a Thursday press call that the agency takes concerns from the Navajo Nation “very, very seriously,” but added it has little oversight by missions run by the private sector. 

“Those communities may not understand that these missions are commercial, and they’re not U.S. government missions,” he said. 

Kearns noted that an intergovernmental team was probing the matter and would set up a meeting with the Navajo Nation. 

“American companies bringing equipment and cargo and payloads to the moon is a totally new industry,” he added. “It is an industry where everyone is learning, as we have set this up in the past few years, how it’s going to operate.” 

CNN noted this isn’t the first time the Navajo Nation has complained about burials on the moon. In December, they wrote a letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, where Nygren referred to a 1999 mission of NASA’s Lunar Prospector, where a craft that carried the remains of former NASA astronaut Eugene Schoemaker was crashed into the moon. 

“At the time, Navajo Nation President Albert Hale voiced our objections regarding this action. In response, NASA issued a formal apology and promised consultation with tribes before authorizing any further missions carrying human remains to the moon.” 

The difference is that NASA conducted the 1999 mission while a private company conducted this week’s. 

Kearns also acknowledged that specific non-NASA payloads may cause heartburn for some. 

“We recognize that some non-NASA commercial payloads can be a cause of concern to some communities, and those communities may not understand that these missions are commercial. They’re not US government missions,” Kearns said. 

Nygren represents roughly 430,000 members of the Navajo Nation, and he acknowledged that the tribe is “not opposed to scientific progress or space exploration,” however they hold “profound concerns regarding the lack of oversight and regulation of non-NAZSA commercial payloads, particularly when such payloads include human remains.” 

CNN noted that the U.S. government only oversees private space launches, primarily in the area of “public health and safety, safety of property, and national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.” 

“The Federal Aviation Administration’s role is statutorily limited to ensuring space flights do not pose a safety or national security threat to the United States,” a DOT spokesperson told CNN. 

That explanation didn’t satisfy the executive director of the Navajo Nation’s Washington office, who called that argument “absurd.” 

“They’re essentially suggesting that you can send anything into space,” said Justin Ahasteen. “Does that mean people can send drugs? Does that mean people can send hazardous material[s]? The lack of oversight is, I think, really concerning for the nation,” he told CNN. 

“Drugs” on the moon? Why? If anything is “absurd,” it’s Ahasteen’s lame argument. It’s pretty much certain that drug cartels aren’t going to be sending a payload of fentanyl to the moon anytime soon. 

The Friday meeting at the White House was to include representatives from NASA, the FAA, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Commerce. It is unknown what occurred at the meeting, but the rocket lifted off, with human remains onboard Monday morning. 

For corrections or revisions, click here.
The opinions reflected in this article are not necessarily the opinions of LET
Sign in to comment

Comments

Karen

I may not agree with the Navaho's beliefs, but I certainly would respect their not wanting their people being shuttled off to space with no agreement to do so. We should put ourselves in their place and ask if we would want a relative or friend of ours to have to go through this. thank you

John

Put the remains on the DARK SIDE of the moon

John

Put the remains on the DARK SIDE of the moon

John

Put the remains on the DARK SIDE of the moon

Powered by StructureCMS™ Comments

Get latest news delivered daily!

We will send you breaking news right to your inbox

© 2024 Law Enforcement Today, Privacy Policy