Humans Ashes, The ‘Soul’ Of An Astronaut, And An Art Sculpture Visible From Earth Are Flying Into Space Today

These exotic items are part of a larger payload due to soar to the skies this afternoon aboard the 'Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express.'

3D illustration of planet Earth in space.
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These exotic items are part of a larger payload due to soar to the skies this afternoon aboard the 'Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express.'

The cremated remains of 100 people are going up into space later today, along with a gold canopic-jar depicting the bust of trailblazing astronaut Robert Henry Lawrence Jr. and a shiny sculpture that you’ll be able to see from Earth.

These exotic items are part of a larger payload due to soar through the skies this afternoon, as reported by the Inquisitr earlier today. Dubbed the “Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express,” this intriguing mission aims to put no less than 64 satellites into low-Earth orbit — all of them hitching a ride on the same rocket.

The satellite bundle is made up of 49 CubeSats and 15 larger microsatellites belonging to 34 government and commercial organizations from 17 different countries. The satellites are destined for sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) and will get there atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

As the Inquisitr previously reported, this is the largest number of satellites to ever be deployed by a SpaceX rocket in one go. At the same time, today’s launch marks the largest satellite rideshare of any U.S. rocket. The satellite delivery was organized by Seattle aerospace company Spaceflight, which bought an entire Falcon 9 rocket to make room for a large number of small payloads contracted by its long list of customers.

The “Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express” takes off at 1:32 p.m. ET. from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Here’s a more detailed look at three of the unique items flying into space aboard the Falcon 9.

Cremated Remains

Perhaps the most stirring of the three is the memorial satellite Elysium Star 2, which contains human ashes belonging to 100 people. The spacecraft is being sent into orbit by the company Elysium Space — in a touching tribute to military veterans, aerospace enthusiasts, and other people “who wanted to be shooting stars,” notes MIT Technology Rewiev.

Among them is 36-year-old rocket enthusiast James Eberling. A sample of his cremated remains is currently placed inside a small capsule engraved with his initials, waiting to travel into space aboard the four-inch Elysium Star 2 CubeSat. According to CNN, his family has included a moving message in the capsule, that reads: “James, you were a grounded Eagle on Earth — may you now soar thru the Heavens.”

The satellite will float into space for a period of up to four years, then burn up in Earth’s atmosphere like a meteor. Elysium Space has attempted a similar endeavor back in 2015; however, that first satellite — the Elysium Star 1 — failed to reach orbit.

‘Soul’ Of Robert Henry Lawrence Jr.

Robert Henry Lawrence Jr. has gone down in history as the first African-American astronaut. He was the first black astronaut to ever be selected by any national space program, states NASA, and was picked for training in 1967 for the MOL Program.

While Lawrence died tragically before getting the chance to fly into space, a satellite will carry into orbit a cherished memento of the trailblazing astronaut so that his soul can finally reach space, reports IEEE Spectrum. The object in question is a 24-karat-gold canopic jar adorned with a bust of Lawrence, created by artist Tavares Strachan.

Inspired by the ancient Egyptian practice of storing the organs of the deceased in canopic jars — a funerary ritual meant to ensure that the dead would have everything they need in the afterlife — the gold statue was blessed at a Shinto shrine in Japan and was recognized as a receptacle for the astronaut’s soul. The object represents a memorial art project conducted by Strachan together with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which owns the satellite that will ferry the sculpture into space. The name of the spacecraft is Enoch.

Orbital Reflector

Enoch is not the only satellite aboard Spaceflight’s SSO-A mission entrusted with an art project. A small CubeSat belonging to by the Nevada Museum of Art is also carrying a sculpture, designed by artist Trevor Paglen.

Known as the Orbital Reflector, the project is a sword-like sculpture created to put on a cosmic art show. The sculpture is essentially an inflatable space mirror; once in orbit, it will deploy a 100-foot “balloon,” meant to reflect sunlight and make it visible from Earth to the naked eye.

According to Spaceflight, the project aims “to inspire viewers to think about space differently” and “to continue conversations about the value of space exploration and discovery, and where the human race is headed.” The Orbital Reflector will float above our planet for a few weeks, then crash into the atmosphere and disintegrate without creating debris.

A detailed list of all the clients with payloads on the “SSO-A: SmallSat Express” is available in the Spaceflight mission manifest.