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The science of space scattering

Scattering ashes in space is a unique and beautiful celebration of life for those who loved space, travel, adventure and the planet Earth. But how do we send ashes into space?

Planet earth below with the blackness of space above and sun rays shining

What is space?

Our universe is a vast ocean of stars, planets and other astronomical objects. Between these celestial bodies lies the void known as space. Space is defined by a vacuum—the absence of matter—and it can be reached just a few miles above our heads.

On Earth, our atmosphere separates and insulates us from the vacuum of space. The atmosphere is made up of a combination of gases which together are vital for life on Earth to flourish. It is at its densest at sea level, with the pressure falling as altitude increases.

Around 19 kilometres above the planet, the pressure drops below an important threshold of 0.06 atmospheres. At this pressure, a human being requires a protective suit to travel any higher. This is known as the Armstrong Limit and marks the boundary to Near Space, the closest region of space to Earth.

We scatter ashes at 100,000 feet, over 32 kilometres above the planet. At this altitude, we are above 99.5% of the gas that makes up the Earth’s atmosphere, and the pressure is one-tenth of the density at the Armstrong Limit. We can see the inky blackness of space above, the majestic curvature of the planet below, and on the horizon, the atmosphere appears as a vibrant ribbon of glowing blue light.

High altitude balloon silhouette in front of golden moring sun on ascent into space

How do the ashes travel into space?

Our passengers’ ashes are stored in our unique intelligent scatter vessel. The scatter vessel is designed to contain the ashes securely throughout the journey into space and release them in a controlled cascade once the craft reaches a suitably spectacular altitude of 100,000 feet (32,500 metres) above the Earth.

The scatter vessel is carried into space by a massive stratospheric balloon filled with hydrogen gas. Hydrogen is the lightest element, lighter than the mix of gases that make up the air in our atmosphere, meaning we can use it to lift our balloon and scatter vessel through the atmosphere and into space.

The balloon rises at a steady rate of around 5 metres per second, or 18 miles per hour. As it rises, the changing pressure causes the balloon to expand, ultimately growing over 20 metres in diameter—that’s nearly the height of the White House.

The vessel is also equipped with two camera systems, which film the craft’s ascent into space and the moment that the ashes are released in HDR 4K video. Following the flight, this footage is transformed into a personalised memorial video commemorating the passenger.

Sunrise over snowy Mountain peaks

What happens to ashes scattered in space?

The scatter vessel releases the ashes in a gentle cascade, 100,000 feet above the Earth. From here, they will fall into the stratospheric wind systems which encircle the globe, which pick them up and carry them around the world.

Cremated remains vary slightly in texture, size and weight. As they travel, the unique properties of each particle mean that the ashes will move through the upper atmosphere at different rates, mixing with different winds and dispersing them across the entire planet.

The ashes will traverse the globe for around three to six months, by which point they will be completely spread out to cover the whole of the Earth. Eventually, they will descend into the closer regions of the atmosphere, where they will mingle with humid pockets of air. The textured particles of ash will create sites for moisture in the air to condense, acting as nucleation points for the formation of raindrops and snowflakes.

Ultimately, all the ash will return to Earth as rain or snowfall. Effectively, our passengers’ ashes travel the world and spread across the entire planet, with only a microscopic amount of ash settling in any given location. Trace nutrients in the ashes will re-enter the water cycle, enriching the natural environment wherever they land.

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