NASA Seeks Consultation with Navajo Nation over Human Remains on the Moon
In a bid to address concerns raised by the Navajo Nation, NASA announced plans to hold an intergovernmental meeting with the tribal community. This move comes amidst growing apprehensions from the Navajo Nation, as they consider placing human remains on the Moon sacrilegious due to their religious and cultural beliefs.
The controversy emerged after the commercial lunar lander, Astrobotic’s Peregrine, was chosen to transport human cremated remains and DNA to the Moon. NASA, however, clarifies that they have no control over non-NASA payloads and that Peregrine is a commercial mission.
The company responsible for sending the remains, Celestis, has defended its service, labeling it as a celebration rather than desecration. Celestis has previously sent remains to the Moon in 1998 aboard NASA’s Lunar Prospector.
Reacting to the news, the President of the Navajo Nation has requested a postponement of the launch and expressed disappointment at not being consulted about this mission. The Navajo Nation considers the Moon sacred and finds the idea of human remains being placed there deeply troubling.
Astrobotic has assured that the cremains will not touch the Moon’s surface as they will not be deployed onto it. Instead, they will be attached to Astrobotic’s Tranquility Flight, carried by the Peregrine lunar lander. Nevertheless, the Navajo Nation’s concerns have prompted NASA to arrange a meeting to address this matter directly.
NASA, a major customer of Peregrine’s commercial launch services, has stated its desire for contractors to find other customers for sustainable, commercial missions. These commercial launches are subject to regulations enforced by the FAA/AST to ensure compliance with safety and security requirements.
Amidst the ongoing debate, Charles Chafer, Chairman and CEO of Celestis, has stood by their service, vehemently rejecting claims of desecration. Celestis sees their mission as a way to honor the deceased and allow people to be a part of space exploration.
As discussions continue between NASA, the Navajo Nation, and Celestis, the fate of the proposed lunar mission hangs in the balance. Both sides are working towards a resolution that respects the Navajo Nation’s beliefs while also supporting the future of commercial space exploration.