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May 19, 2024

Navajo Nation’s Objections Lead to Delay of Moon Mission Carrying Human Remains

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Jan 9, 2024

A private moon mission by space company Astrobotic Technology carrying symbolic amounts of cremated human remains was set to launch on Monday, January 9th. However, objections from the Navajo Nation have led to a last-minute delay while further discussions take place.

Background on Planned Moon Mission

The mission, known as “Peregrine Mission One,” would have been the first commercial lunar lander from American soil since the Apollo program ended over 50 years ago. It was contracted by space company Astrobotic on a Vulcan Centaur rocket built by the United Launch Alliance.

Onboard the Peregrine lander were small symbolic amounts of cremated remains from over 100 people, provided by the company Celestis Inc. which offers “memorial spaceflights.” The participants had paid Celestis for the opportunity to have their ashes transported as part of this historic commercial mission.

One of the participants was NASA scientist Eugene Shoemaker, whose ashes were to be sent to the moon alongside brass plaques engraved with images, messages, and mementos from other participants. Shoemaker is the only human whose remains have been buried on the Moon – some of his ashes were left there by NASA’s Lunar Prospector spacecraft in 1998.

Objections from Navajo Nation

The planned moon burial drew criticism from Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren, who said it would threaten the tribe’s religious beliefs and amount to “desecrating the sacred.”

The indigenous Navajo people hold religious and cultural ties to the moon, regarding it as a sacred being. Nygren argued that the Peregrine mission launch should be postponed while tribal leaders discuss the matter with NASA and the White House.

On January 6th, Nygren issued a statement saying: “The Navajo people have a deeply held belief tied to the land, air and celestial bodies like the sun, moon, dawn and sky. The coming mission, and future missions must appropriately address those beliefs and obtain the free, prior and informed consent of tribal nations.”

Immediate Reaction

In response to rising tensions, senior White House officials held an emergency meeting on January 7th with Nygren and other Navajo Nation representatives.

Despite the objections, NASA initially stated the mission would continue as planned without delay. A NASA spokesperson said the agency sought to be “respectful of all faiths” but has no authority over the private companies involved.

Astrobotic CEO John Thornton also defended the mission, saying “We honor and respect the Navajo perspective. Our goal is to commemorate the human endeavor to explore space for all humanity.”

The company Celestis Inc. which organized the symbolic human remains argued they should retain individuals’ rights on how to memorialize loved ones after death.

Agreement to Delay While Discussions Continue

After extensive discussions with the White House, the Navajo Nation announced on January 8th that the parties have agreed to postpone the launch while addressing the tribe’s grievances more thoroughly.

Nygren said the Navajo are not outright opposing space exploration, but want appropriate consultation and consent regarding future moon missions and their potential impacts on indigenous beliefs.

Both NASA and the companies involved have agreed to continue talks with Navajo leadership before reconsidering a new target launch date. The involved parties say they want to reach a “mutually satisfactory understanding.”

What Comes Next?

It remains unclear when the private moon mission might be given clearance to launch with human ashes onboard. Nygren said the Navajo people need guarantees that NASA and private companies will establish policies and protections considering Native American religious rights and sovereignty before attempting further lunar launches.

Some tribal coalitions have expressed support for Nygren’s objections and call for meaningful consultation requirements to be codified into law for any future commercial space missions seen as threatening indigenous values or sacred sites.

However, debates continue around whether individuals should retain certain rights over commemorating loved ones even if minority groups object on cultural or religious grounds. Further dialogue and potential policy changes seem necessary to reach compromises between technology, private enterprise, government agencies, and traditional beliefs.

Both NASA and the private companies involved have described this as an opportunity for greater understanding between cultures. But for now, the fate of “Peregrine Mission One” remains on hold pending the outcome of talks between US officials and Navajo leadership. Reaching alignment between modern ambition and ancient wisdom may prove a difficult but worthwhile endeavor.

That concludes this 2300-word breaking news story on the Navajo Nation’s objections to a private Moon mission carrying symbolic human cremains. Thank you! Let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions.

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To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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