Human ashes, pet hair among items headed to Moon on Monday launch

NASA science will hitch a ride with the Peregrine lander, along with a Japanese sports drink, Bitcoin and human ashes. The launch is scheduled for 2:18 a.m. ET Monday from Cape Canaveral.

The first American launch to the Moon's surface in decades will carry unique items that will remain on the lunar surface forever. Some items include human ashes, personal mementos, artwork and letters from children worldwide. 

NASA, Astrobotic and United Launch Alliance are targeting Monday at 2:18 a.m. ET to launch the Vulcan rocket with Astrobotic's Peregrine Moon lander. It's the first mission for ULA's Vulcan rocket and potentially the first commercial Moon landing. 


This is not a NASA mission; instead, the space agency is one customer of many on the first commercial American mission to the Moon. The robotic mission is carrying five NASA science payloads as part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. The Peregrine lander will also have a whole band of other science for customers, including Carnegie Mellon University, Mexico, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and Hungary. 

But wait, there's more. 

Astrobotic partnered with global shipping company DHL to sell space on the lander for people to send small items to the Moon. 

"We've got folks that are sending inscriptions of family names, and sometimes there are photos of families," Astrobotic CEO John Thornton told FOX Weather in 2022. "We even have some pet hair from a family pet that passed. It's all sorts of different things that individuals like you and I can send up to the surface, and that's the very first time that is possible."

Astrobotic has its own payloads on Peregrine with a demonstration Terrain Relative Navigation sensor, and the company worked with Carnegie Mellon University staff and students to develop the tiny Iris Lunar Rover flying on Peregrine. 

Five more small rovers will also launch on the mission. The Mexican Space Agency is sending miniature rovers about 12 cm across and weighing less than 60 grams for a demonstration mission on the lunar surface. 

As a nod to its hometown, Astrobotic's lunar lander will also carry a token from local amusement park Kennywood. This item came down to a vote from Pittsburghers.

Navajo Nation objects to sending human ashes to Moon

Space memorial companies Celestis and Elysium Space have also purchased space on the Peregrine lander. Friends and family can pay the companies to send their loved ones' ashes to the Moon, low-Earth orbit and deep space.

Celestis confirmed last year that ashes from the late ‘Star Trek’ actress Nichelle Nichols will be launching on the inaugural Vulcan rocket. 

Arizona Public Radio first reported on Dec. 28 that Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren has asked NASA and the U.S. Department of Transportation to delay the launch because the Moon is part of the Navajo's spiritual heritage, and depositing human remains is "tantamount to desecration of this sacred space." 

NASA Deputy Associate Administration for Exploration Joel Kearns said NASA received the letter from the Navajo Nation, and an intergovernmental team is looking into Nygren's request. 

"We take concerns as expressed from the Navajo Nation very, very seriously," Kearns said. "And we think we're going to be continuing on this conversation."


NASA had previously been called to task by the Navajo Nation when the agency launched a memorial capsule on the Lunar Prospector mission in 1998. 

A 1.75-inch capsule on the spacecraft contained the ashes of planetary geologist Eugene Shoemaker. The NASA mission ended after 18 years when the spacecraft crashed into the lunar surface. 

Art, Bitcoin and Pocari Sweat

Japanese company Astroscale purchased a ride on Peregrine for the Pocari Sweat Lunar Dream Capsule. The company said the time capsule shaped like the sports drink Pocari Sweat has 185,872 messages from children around the world.

Cryptocurrency will land on the lunar surface, too, as BTC Inc. is sending up a copy of the Genesis Block, the first block of Bitcoin to be mined.


There are several art-related items launching to the Moon.

A group called "Writers on the Moon" purchased space on the DHL Moonbox, including work from 125 writers. 

Another Carnegie Mellon payload includes MoonArk, a small museum on the Moon that "embodies arts, humanities, sciences and technologies in a set of intricately designed objects." Another art payload is the Lunar Mission One, a digital art gallery.

Still, none of these science payloads, words, digital art, ashes or personal items may make it to the lunar surface. 

"The surface of the Moon holds many robotic spacecraft that were not able to land softly and complete the missions," NASA CLPS program manager Chris Culbert said on Thursday.

Over half of all lunar landings have been successful, and no private company has ever landed on the Moon. Thornton said in November that Astrobotic aims to be the first, and the mission carries "the hopes and dreams of Pittsburgh" along with all of its other customers.