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Navajo Nation president asks NASA to delay Moon launch over possible human remains

A full Moon rises in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona.
Diana Robinson

Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren has asked NASA to delay a scheduled launch to the Moon that could include cremated remains.

Nygren says he recently learned of the Jan. 8 launch of the Vulcan Centaur carrying the Peregrine Mission One. The lander will carry some payloads from a company known to provide memorial services by shipping human cremated remains to the Moon.

Nygren wants the launch delayed and the tribe consulted immediately. He noted the Moon is sacred to numerous Indigenous cultures and that depositing human remains on it is “tantamount to desecration.”

NASA previously came under fire after the ashes of former geologist and planetary scientist Eugene Shoemaker were sent to the Moon in 1998.

Then-Navajo Nation President Albert Hale said the action was a gross insensitivity to the beliefs of many Native Americans. NASA later apologized and promised to consult with tribes before authorizing any similar missions in the future.

Nygren highlighted this commitment in his letter, as well as a 2021 memo signed by the Biden administration that pledged to consult the tribe on matters that impact them.

“This memorandum reinforced the commitment to Executive Order 13175 of November 6, 2000,” President Nygren wrote. “Additionally, the Memorandum of Understanding Regarding Interagency Coordination and Collaboration for the Protection of Indigenous Sacred Sites, which you and several other members of the Administration signed in November 2021, further underscores the requirement for such consultation.”

He added this explicitly recognizes that sacred sites can consist of "places that afford views of important areas of land, water, or of the sky and celestial bodies."

NASA has yet to respond.

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