Practical issues of space colonization: funerals in space

Today is the funeral of the younger brother of the Dutch king. It’s therefore a good moment to discuss the topic of funerals in space colonies. Since space colonization will not make man immortal, space settlers will die and hence proper funeral protocols has to be developed.The bodily remains of deceased humans are a health risk for the living. By burying or cremating human corpses, people are protecting themselves against the dead.

In space we have several option for the disposal of bodily remains. First, we can simply dump the bodies in space, thereby removing it from a space habitat. The benefits of this method are obvious, however by doing so we will lose valuable material. It would be better to recycle the bodies somehow. This will exclude but burial and immurement in space habitats as methods of disposal. Besides this methods also occupy a lot of space within a habitat.

A suitable method of disposal is alkaline hydrolysis also known as resomation. In this process the bodily remains are dissolved in an alkaline liquid, and gives:

The end result is a quantity of green-brown tinted liquid (containing amino acids, peptides, sugars and salts) and soft, porous white bone remains (calcium phosphate) easily crushed in the hand (although a cremulator is more commonly used) to form a white-colored dust. The “ash” can then be returned to the next of kin of the deceased. The liquid is disposed of either through the sanitary sewer system, or through some other method including use in a garden or green space. (Wikipedia).

Well, what would be better than to have a memorial park surrounding the funeral home? This would give the family and friends of the deceased a place to go to remember their lost ones. This video shows how resomation will work.

Another option is of course donation to science. Medical students need to dissect corpses as part of their training. After the students are finished with the corpses, these can either be resomated or preserved by plastination for future educational purposes.

Since the proper disposal of human bodily remains is a public health concern, it will be logical if the government of a space settlement will pay for the resomation of its deceased citizens. However, people will have to pay for their own funeral service.

See also:

Euthanasia and capital punishment