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 what happens to the ashes when they are released, and how do they get to space in the first place?
What happens to ashes scattered in space?
Our passengers journey into space in our intelligent scatter vessel. The scatter vessel monitors conditions throughout the flight. When the environment is suitably serene and beautiful, the vessel opens, releasing the ashes in a gentle cascade. Our cameras film the moment to create the memorial video for friends and family. Once the passenger is released, the lifting balloon bursts and the spacecraft parachutes safely back to Earth for our team to recover.
The passenger spreads out across the entire planet, travelling the world on an incredible final journey. Their ashes are picked up by the stratospheric winds which encircle the globe, carrying them around the planet. Over the next three to six months, they become one with these winds, traversing the globe many times and spreading out until their presence touches every part of the world.
Finally, their ashes seed raindrops and snowflakes, returning to Earth and becoming one with nature again. Little by little, the ashes will descend into the lower portions of the atmosphere. Here, the uniquely textured surface of each particle acts as a nucleation point, where water vapour in the air condenses and freezes to form an ice crystal within a cloud. In this way, our passengers complete their final journey by returning to the Earth in raindrops and snowflakes, re-entering the natural cycle of elements all across the planet.
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 the height of Buckingham Palace.
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.
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.