When memories become stardust

It turns out that we really are all made of stars. And for $10,000 we can send our memories back to where it all began.

Did you know that the carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms in our bodies originate from supernova events that occurred in space billions of years ago? Even the iron in our blood can be traced back to cosmic explosions that took place long before our sun even existed.

Knowing that the universe lies within us could go some way to explain our fascination with the stars and the recent advent of space tourism. And while spaceflight may be accessible to the likes of Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, it remains a distant dream for the 99.99% of us. However, there now exists a slightly more affordable option. And although it won’t buy you a seat on the next Blue Origin flight, it will allow you to send something a little smaller into orbit.

For $10,000, Upmosphere will send 20 grams of your precious memories into space. Simply place a small memento of your choice inside a dedicated wooden box, and they will launch it into the sky on a satellite. From wedding rings, to photos, to the collar of your dearly departed dog, what you put inside the box is entirely up to you. Once your item has been launched, you’ll then gain access to an app that allows you to track the journey of your ‘memory’ as it circles the planet at 33,000 km/hr.

It’s rather special, if a little unusual. The idea is that when you look up to the sky above you will feel a sense of comfort knowing that your special item is up there on a magical journey, hurtling through space. However, all good things must come to an end, even space memories. Because eventually, the satellite will drop back down into the earth’s atmosphere a few years later. When this occurs, your memory will experience the ultimate finale, as it burns up like a shooting star (however, it’s unlikely that you’d be able to witness those final fiery moments when they occur).

In drawing a link between our memories and the story of our origin, the service is presented as something deeply spiritual and meaningful. The most popular item to send is the cremated ashes of a loved one, and indeed, for those who can afford the price tag, it would certainly make for an elaborate send off.

However, there is a looming question of ethics and sustainability to consider. Especially when you consider the fact that cremation is already a less eco-friendly option, releasing an average of 400kg of CO2 per person. Cremation followed by a trip on an exploding satellite is a double whammy of emissions.

Upmosphere points to certain aspects of the service that are sustainable, such as the fact that the wooden boxes are made of reclaimed wood, and the very fact that the satellites only orbit for a limited time.

But many people would argue that putting any satellites into space without just cause is an unsustainable practice that increases space debris, which is simply bad for the environment. Light pollution from satellites also pose a threat to astronomy, and the World Economic Forum recently highlighted the dangers of satellite re-entries depositing hazardous levels of alumina into the upper atmosphere.

The concept of sending our memories into space is certainly intriguing, and you can understand why those with the money to spend may be drawn to it. However, in a world where we’re trying to limit waste and consumption, and preserve resources, we can’t help but ask: is sending things into space on speeding satellites really what we need to be doing more of right now?