Sheffield-based Ascension Flights offers funerals in space
Deciding where to scatter your loved ones’ ashes can be a truly painful process, especially when the setting for the celebration of their life doesn’t really fit their personality. Well here’s something stratospheric: what if you could literally leave the world in an exploding cascade of glitter, making you a permanent part of the cycle sustaining life on the world?
UK-based Ascension Flights, set up by two University of Sheffield graduates, has created the perfect send-off for those loved ones who call themselves adventurers and explorers. Run by a collaboration of funeral directors and the UK’s leading high altitude imaging specialists, the group send ashes into space and past the Armstrong point using the Ascension 1 aircraft.
The person’s cremated remains sit in a canister and are lifted 22 miles up into the stratosphere using helium gas and bespoke high altitude balloons. The process takes two and a half hours and as the ashes scatter, the residual moisture in the canister create an explosive plume of glitter which then falls, precipitates and turns into raindrops or snowflakes. Talk about leaving your mark on the world.
As the atmospheric pressure falls below 10% of the Earth’s pressure, the balloons expand to over 15 feet before bursting, staying attached to the parachute to minimise environmental damage (although it’s worth remembering that the act of cremation itself isn’t exactly green). They then track and recover the canister and parachute using advanced GPS wherever it lands. They can then return a ceremonial portion of the ashes from the journey.
As well as being a unique send-off, it’s reasonably priced given the soaring costs of funerals in the UK, with many now costing upwards of £4,000. The service provided here costs £795 and up, with different tiers for various extras like having the process filmed on an HD camera, allowing those at the service to watch the ashes being scattered, as well as having your choice of location rather than Ascension’s South Yorkshire base, even a video memorial showing the flight and moment of release. Although obviously, you’d still need to pay for cremation and any other aspects of the standard funeral you wish to include.
The company have spent five years testing high-altitude balloon flights and perfecting the process with non-human ashes before opening up the service to the public.
“Grief is a powerful and unpredictable emotion and the remains of a departed loved one are very precious to those they leave behind. We wanted to be certain that we could provide a consistent, reliable and streamlined service before we offered public flights,” Co-founder, Dr Chris Rose explained.
The first send-off is scheduled to take place this November.