A final farewell: Families launching ashes of loved ones into space

It is a final farewell as families on Florida's Space Coast are getting ready to send loved ones' ashes into the final frontier.  It is especially meaningful for one Florida family as they prepare for the cosmic burial. 

Families from all around the world flew into Florida to honor family members by sending their ashes into space. Melissa Teston was part of the gathering.  She said it only takes a second to lose a loved one and a lifetime to honor them. She's preparing for her brother, Derek Yanes, to take his place among the stars. 

"We knew that a space memorial would be something he would have loved, but we never dreamed that he would actually be able to do a space flight," she said.

At birth, Yanes was diagnosed with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH), which is a chronic condition that affects cortisol and adrenaline production. In 2019, at just 46-years-old, Yanes passed away after going into adrenal insufficiency following a surgery.

His sister said he grew up captivated by rockets, spending a lot of time building them with his father. He wasn't able to achieve his dream of being an astronaut due to his health condition. Now, Teston said his ashes will be taking the trip into space, all part of a memorial flight by a company called Celestis

Yanes will be part of the group's 23rd overall mission, "The Ascension Flight," and will be housed in a Cubasat or miniature satellite that will be carried into space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as part of the company's ride-share program.  The satellite will be deployed in a low-Earth orbit and circle the planet for the next decade. His family will be able to track his whereabouts and know when he's passing over.

"This allows him to have his name known for many generations to come, as well as our future grandbabies one day will know that their great uncle is orbiting around the Earth," Teston said.

Celestis CEO and co-founder Charles Chafer said the ashes will circle the planet for nearly a decade, before eventually re-entering the Earth's atmosphere, trailing in as a shooting star in a final tribute.

"Anybody that goes out on a starry night and looks up and says, 'I want to be part of the universe I think will appeal to them."

Chafer said 47 individuals will be honored on the next spaceflight.