• Nuts and Bolts! Nuts and Bolts! Dead Bodies Rule!

    The Afterlife of Artificial Hips and Knees Clark Boyd and Rob Hugh-Jones PRI’s The World via BBC News (February 21, 2012) The metal used in…

  • More Americans Choosing Cremation to Save Money

    In Tough Times, a Boom in Cremations as a Way to Save Money Kevin Sack, The New York Times (December 09, 2011) If current American…

  • Soylent Green is Dead Bodies Eaten by Mushrooms

    Green Burial Project Developing Corpse-Eating Mushrooms Paul Ridden, gizmag.com (July 29, 2011)   The Infinity Burial Project Jae Rhim Lee Every once in a while…

  • Dead Body and Technology Lecture Tuesday April 19

    Future Death: The Dead Human Body as Biomass An Illustrated lecture with Dr. John Troyer Deputy Director Centre for Death and Society University of Bath…

  • Jewish Burial Gets Back to the Roots

    Reviving a Ritual of Tending to the Dead Paul Vitello, The New York Times (December 13, 2010) A new generation of Jewish volunteers is learning…

  • The Ultimate in Going Green: New Research into Postmortem Options with John Troyer

    Crematorium to Keep Mourners Warm by Burning Bodies of Loved Ones The Daily Mail (January 08, 2008)   Eco-Death Articles and Information Put Together by…

  • Green Burial: A Review

    Eco-friendly or “green” burial methods and practices are the hot topic in the funeral industry and mortuary sciences these days. Everywhere you turn, there is…

  • Prepare for Death and Follow Me…into Outer Space

    Death In Space
    Mary Roach, Boing Boing (September 02, 2010)

    Wherever living humans go, the possibility of dead human bodies follows. It is the fullest expression of mortality’s inherent fragility.

    So, when humans finally travel into space for extended periods of time without the luxury of a quickish return to Earth, dead body contingencies need to be thought through.This is especially true for any eventual trips to Mars, which may or may not involve establishing colonies.

    Here’s the rub: NASA does not appear to have plans on what to do if an astronaut dies during a mission. Or the plans, if they exist, are not available to the public. I came across some news articles on this apparent planning gap, and it appears that NASA planners haven’t really taken seriously the possibility of an astronaut’s death during an extended voyage or what to do with a dead body during a mission.

    This is not a minor point. Returning the dead body and its remnants to next of kin is standard procedure for US governmental operations; NASA space missions are no different. Yet during long or arduous expeditions dead bodies are often left behind, if for any reason, bringing the corpse back is too difficult and/or actually endangers fellow team members. Climbers who die on Mt. Everest are routinely left behind where they fall, not out of malice but out of necessity.

    Enter into all of this, then, Mary Roach. Many of you will know Roach from her books Stiff, Spook, and Boink. She has also just written a new book entitled Packing for Mars, on exploring the red planet. Earlier this month, she wrote a short piece for Boing Boing about death in space and what might be done with a dead body. Oddly, Mary Roach’s work has popped up in a few different places the last few weeks.

    Here is the lead from Mary Roach’s essay for Boing Boing:

    The U.S. has plans for a manned visit to Mars by the mid-2030s. The ESA and Russia have sketched out a similar joint mission, and it is claimed that China’s space program has the same objective. Apart from their destination, all these plans share something in common: extraordinary danger for the explorers. What happens if someone dies out there, months away from Earth?

    Roach discusses a plan developed by the Swedish environmentalist/burial innovator Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak and collaborator Peter Mäsak. Many readers of Stiff will remember Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak and her innovation called Promession. In a nutshell, the proposed system would reduce the dead body’s size and volume, thereby making it simpler to transport back to Earth. The full proposal (which is being developed with NASA) should be read to fully glean how this system would work.

    What Wiigh-Mäsak and NASA are proposing is fine…but leaving the body in space would still be simpler. Indeed, the main reason to keep a body on hand after death would be for a postmortem examination to determine the Cause of Death and to see if the other astronauts were at risk for some previously unknown pathogen. That said, if an autopsy is not possible because of weaker gravitational pull and/or after a successful postmortem exam takes place, then the body is best given a respectful burial in space. I would rather see NASA develop plans for final disposition in space than a spaceship’s crew trying to make room for a dead colleague.

    Besides, I have a hunch that any person who dies in space will probably want to stay in the ether.

    Per usual, science fiction has already offered up one example of what a proper burial in outer space could resemble (see the vid at top).

    Death In Space Mary Roach, Boing Boing (September 02, 2010) Wherever living humans go, the possibility of dead human bodies follows. It is the fullest…

  • Plain or Fancy?

    Seems like funerals or memorial services are either getting simpler or more complex these days. Green burials and simple home rituals are gaining momentum, but…

  • UK Hindu Man is Burning Down the House

    Hindu Wins Northumberland Funeral Pyre Battle BBC News (February 10, 2010) Hindu Man Wins Court Battle for Open-Air Cremation Pyre Matthew Taylor The Guardian (February…

  • Burial Goes Vertical

    Aussie Undertakers Turn Funeral Business on Its Head… by Offering to Bury People Upright Foreign News Service, Daily Mail Online (December 7, 2009) Just when…

  • How Dead Bodies Become Beetle Juice

    To Casket Or Not To Casket? One Of America’s Great Field Biologists Thinks About Burial Robert Krulwich, NPR (October 9, 2009) NPR science reporter Robert…