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Burial in Space

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Too many to remember. Too many to allow to be forgotten.

"From the stars we came, and to the stars we return, from now until the end of time. We therefore commit this body to the deep."

Because Space Is an Ocean, you need some equivalent of Burial at Sea. And because you can't really throw a dead body over the "side" of a space ship, some more dramatic means of getting the body out of the ship is required.

Usually the deceased is placed in a "space coffin". In some cases the coffin is actually a torpedo, which is shot out of the ship's torpedo tubes. It may even explode, indicating that not only is it a torpedo but that it is actually armed. In less drastic examples, the coffin is taken out through the airlocks by mourners in space suits and allowed to simply drift off into space. Alternatively, you could Hurl It into the Sun - cremation by star is not that bad of a funeral.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Gundam
    • Mobile Suit Gundam has the burial of Paolo Cassius, the original captain of the White Base... with the capsule actually exploding after moving a safe distance away from the ship.
    • Mobile Suit Victory Gundam: After Oliver Inoue dies charging into an enemy ship, his cremated remains are handed out at his funeral and spread into space. For the sake of visibility the ashes are animated as glowing gold. More strangely, they look like they're scattered in the wind, despite being in a vacuum.
    • Gundam SEED Destiny: After Lacus's Body Double Meer Campbell pulls a Heroic Sacrifice for Lacus, her body is first retrieved by the group (with Athrun carrying her in his arms and dressed in a white gown). Then Meer's body is placed in a space capsule full of white flowers, and after Lacus tearfully says goodbye, the capsule is shot into space.
  • Space Battleship Yamato
    • There are at least two space funerals held after major battles, both to some degree censored in Star Blazers. Long lines of space coffins are set to drift in space, presumably forever.
    • The funeral in the third season is actually said to be a funeral for dead enemies, rather than crewmembers. Whether this is a case of Bowdlerization or Woolseyism is an open question, since on the one hand giving your enemies an honorable burial is a, well, really honorable thing to do. On the other hand.. they obviously just didn't want to have to talk about named characters dying that early in the season. Also, you can briefly see the characters through the windows in their coffins so I don't see how they were planning to fool anybody.
    • The remake splits the difference, with a short scene in which three enemy personnel from a Boarding Party who were killed in action aboard the Yamato are honourably buried according to proper custom at the same time as the ship's own dead. It fits the theme of Gamilon's people being not that different, and their military commanders being Worthy Opponents.
  • At least one major character in Candidate for Goddess is buried in space.
  • In Planetes, astronauts at one point occasionally chose to be buried in a space coffin, but the practice has been banned by the time the show is set. One episode deals with the consequences of debris section finding such a coffin.
  • The Captain Harlock movie Arcadia of My Youth ends with a space burial of Zoll, his sister Mira, and the Earth's La RĂ©sistance leader (who is also Harlock's Old Flame) Maya aboard Arcadia, with all of the surviving good guys in attendance. Maya's burial in particular symbolizes the severing of Harlock's last tether to his old life, completing his transformation into the Space Pirate that he becomes best known as.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Rocketship Voyager. For pragmatic reasons Disposing of a Body is done separately from the funeral rites; Captain Janeway has to be reminded that they have bodies to 'bury', as the funeral took place over a week ago. The bodies of those killed are fastened outside the hull (to avoid decomposing gasses) until it's time to fire up the torchship, whereupon they're cremated by the exhaust plume (it's not pragmatic to Hurl It into the Sun when the sun could be billions of miles away) or recycled as reaction mass. When one body breaks free before it can be cremated, the Chief Engineer hushes it up rather than admit the corpse is adrift in space.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is the Trope Codifier, although from this list it is not the oldest. After Spock's Heroic Sacrifice to get the warp core back online, his body is fired from the torpedo bay over the Genesis Planet. The coffin/torpedo/giant sunglasses case was actually fired at a planet; also a major part of the set-up for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock note 
  • Dizzy Flores in the Starship Troopers film has her coffin sent out to slowly drift into the cosmos after dying during the Outpost 29 battle.
  • In The Black Hole one of the main characters notices a group of Reinhardt's androids performing one of these for one of their own, shooting the coffin of their fallen into the black hole. This is one of the clues building up to The Reveal that the "androids" are actually the ship's personnel Reinhardt turned into cybernetic slaves through Unwilling Roboticisation in response to their attempted mutiny.
  • Alien:
    • Kane's body in Alien is jettisoned into space after the Alien bursts out of his chest. Traumatised after his unexpected death, the crew can find no last words to say about their shipmate. Rather than a stately drift into space, the body is shot rapidly from the airlock.
    • Alien: Covenant. After Captain Branson dies in an accident, the new captain orders that repairs must take priority over ceremonies for the dead. In defiance of his orders, several crewmembers perform a Libation for the Dead before ejecting Branson's body out the airlock.
  • In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dave Bowman releases Frank Poole's body into space mainly because he needs both of the space pod's arms to open the emergency airlock. (In the novel, after deactivating HAL he does the same with the men killed in hibernation. In the 3001 novel, Frank gets better).
  • Conquest of Space (1955). Because his decomposing body would poison the air, a deceased crewman is secured outside the spaceship. Realising the sight of his body drifting outside the viewport is affecting morale, the captain pushes the body off into space after a moving eulogy.
  • In Enemy Mine, the casualties from the Drac War are so numerous that the coffins are constantly being loaded into the airlock by an automatic conveyor belt, stopping just long enough for the bored technicians on duty to check the deceased's religion and play the appropriate prerecorded last rites.
  • In Outland, Marshal O'Niel wants to know where the bodies of the miners who've died after going crazy have gone. He's told they're taken away on the shuttle and Thrown Out the Airlock halfway to the space station. "Burial at sea, and all that". Of course, this is a useful way of ensuring there are no bodies around to autopsy.
  • Yondu at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, after sacrificing himself to save Peter, receives a form of cremation that sweeps his multi-colored ashes/embers out into space. To the surprise of the Guardians the rest of the Ravagers come to celebrate his life with space fireworks.

  • Crest of the Stars has a planet that sends their dead into space on rockets. The protagonists manage to escape said planet by hiding in a coffin. Abh also bury their dead in space.
  • The Mote in God's Eye. The bodies of the Marines who died evacuating the battlecruiser MacArthur were shot out into space from Lenin's torpedo tubes. They were then vaporized by blasts from Lenin's weapons, so the Moties couldn't retrieve the bodies and study them.
  • Robert A. Heinlein:
    • In Starman Jones, after Dr. Hendrix dies his body is set adrift in space, to wander the stars forever.
  • In Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space universe, one standard way to inter bodies is to accelerate in a spaceship until you're traveling as close to the speed of light as you get, then shoot the body out in front of the ship. This is referred to as "burial at c".
  • The Culture practices cremation in space (using teleporters, rather than any undignified hurling).
  • In C. J. Cherryh's Alliance/Union universe, being sent to the sun seems to be the preferred burial method among those identify themselves as spacers. In The Faded Sun, this is the preferred burial of warrior-caste mri.
  • In Asimov's short story C-Chute, the eponymous item is a euphemism for "casualty chute", which itself is a euphemism for/abbreviation of "chute used to eject coffins into space". The protagonist uses one to exit from the ship, because the part in which he and the other humans are imprisoned doesn't include any of the airlocks. To avoid alerting the aliens who have captured the ship, and thereby recapture it, he re-enters by an equally unconventional route.
  • Happens in various ways in the Star Wars Legends, mostly the X-Wing Series.
    • Corran's father's ashes were left to drift in space between Corellia and Selonia, apparently not in a container. While dating the daughter of his father's mortal enemy, he once jokes that his father's ashes were trying to coalesce to stop him.
    • The drifting coffins variety seems to be the most popular when a pilot's body can be recovered, appearing in several Meaningful Funerals. They're often tractored out into space and nudged towards the star. When a body can't be recovered, as happened to Jesmin Ackbar, a torpedo is used as a symbolic stand-in.
    • Allegiance has a mortally wounded spacer named Tannis ask Mara Jade to "bury him in space". She does.
    • In a variation, Alderaanians mostly have their space coffins shot into "the Graveyard," the shattered remnants of their destroyed planet.
    • In The Truce at Bakura, Dev Sibwarra's shrouded body is ejected from the Millennium Falcon's airlock in orbit above Bakura, and allowed to burn away in the upper atmosphere.
  • In Halo: The Fall of Reach, the bodies of the Spartans that "washed out" (read: died) of the augmentation process are launched out of the torpedo tubes of a ship, accompanied by an appropriate military funeral procession.
  • In the Honorverse, Grayson Armsmen are traditionally buried where they fall. When one of her armsmen dies aboard ship (in At All Costs), they eject him into space.
  • The traditional Jorenian funeral in S. L. Viehl's Stardoc series consists of this. The Jorenians normally attempt to put their dead on a course that would result in cremation by star or by atmospheric reentry, but it doesn't always work out as planned (as the events of Plague of Memory can attest).
  • In John Hemry's Paul Sinclair novel A Just Determination, a crewman is buried in space. His final trajectory is set for the sun.
  • John Hemry's The Lost Fleet:
    • In the novel Invincible, the fleet no longer has capacity to bring back its dead. Geary arranges for the corpses to be launched into the sun — and those of their enemies as well, since they do not know their funeral customs.
    • It's a fleet regulation that traitors not be buried in normal space. Instead, they are required to be buried in jumpspace. When Geary finds out, he is horrified at the prospect of someone (even a traitor) never being able to join his or her ancestors and the living stars. He calms down when Desjani points out that the act is purely symbolic in nature. Of course the ancestors and the living stars would be able to find anyone even in jumpspace.
  • In Contact eccentric billionaire Hadden, a man so rich he can afford to permanently inhabit the Space Station in order to slightly improve his resistance to a terminal disease, finally has his body launched into space. Unlike typical space burials, his entire, preserved body is sent out, where in the low heat of outer space it can potentially last millions of years until it inevitably hits something, and holds an infinitesimal chance of being found and resurrected by advanced aliens, all so that he can make a last grab at immortality.
  • The Stars, My Brothers by Edmond Hamilton. The decision is made to have those killed in the space program placed in orbit around the Moon, but only for PR reasons. There's vague talk of scientists developing Human Popsicles one day, so this way the Powers That Be can offset criticisms of the casualty rate by saying they'll be revived some day. A hundred years later this is exactly what happens.
  • Inverted in Morgue Ship by Ray Bradbury, with the eponymous vessel tasked with retrieving the bodies of those killed in a space war so they can be returned to Earth. Unfortunately one of the bodies is an enemy soldier who is Not Quite Dead.
  • In The Expanse, it's a tradition in the Martian Congressional Republic Navy to bury fallen soldiers in coffins ejected into space; even if there's no body left behind they will eject just the coffin. The Belters, living their whole lives in artfificial habitats where no resource is taken for granted, instead decompose the corpses into crucial resources. Some of them find the idea of continuing one's existence as a part of space station's ecosystem romantic.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The 100, the deceased from The Ark are flushed out into space, but with the odd twist that they're meant to fall back to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere, as a way of returning them to their ancestral home.
  • The Ark (2023) has this be suggested for the dead from the oxygen crisis the Ark 1 starship experiences early in the first season. Subverted when Angus convinces enough of the survivors that composting the bodies to make fertilizer for the plants they need to grow to live is a better option.
  • In Avenue 5, several casualties of the accident that sent the giant space liner Avenue 5 off-course are sent out an airlock in coffins. Unfortunately, the ship is massive enough and the coffins are launched so poorly that they wind up orbiting the vessel for the remainder of the series.
  • Done a couple of times on Babylon 5:
    • In the episode "Ceremonies of Light and Dark", those crew who died in the previous episode's battle were given a mass funeral, with a whole line of space coffins being shot at the star Epsilon Eridani, escorted part of the way by a formation of Starfury space fighters (with one fighter peeling off as part of a "Missing Man" formation). Worth noting, Commander Ivanova appeared to have used her Photographic Memory to memorize the list of names to be read at the memorial, rather than reading from notes.
    • In "Interludes and Examinations", when Kosh dies, his encounter suit is placed in his Vorlon transport, and it flies itself into the star for an alien version of this trope.
  • In Battlestar Galactica (2003), there are several funerals after which the bodies are ejected into space from a Viper launch tube.
    • The ashes of the "fake" Hera were scattered into space from the open door of a Raptor.
    • In the final episode, the whole Fleet, along with Sam, gets flown into Sol.
    • In the webisode "The Face of the Enemy", a dead body has to be ejected from a stranded shuttle because of the decomposition issue.
  • Battlestar Galactica (1978) also did it a number of times. One instance occurred in the episode "Take the Celestra", where an elderly captain had made a Heroic Sacrifice during the attempt to retake the titular factory ship from mutineers.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • In the first episode, George MacIntyre's remains get shot into space and Lister does it with the rest of the crew in a Deleted Scene.
    • In "Stoke Me A Clipper" when the "prime" Rimmer takes up the torch of the dimension-hopping space hero "Ace Rimmer" he and Lister place the previous Ace's holo-bee in a small capsule and shoot it into a planetary ring composed of similar holo-bee coffins.
  • Space: Above and Beyond sees navy-style funeral services conducted aboard the Saratoga, complete with the coffin (a cylindrical capsule) being ejected into space. Interestingly, in keeping with the show's wholesale borrowing of real life military terminology and traditions, this is referred to as burial "at space," rather than "in space," echoing "burial at sea".
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Schizoid Man", Dr. Ira Graves' casket is beamed into space, per his last wishes.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • In "Latent Image", a photon torpedo casing is fired into a sun, bearing the body of dead ensign Jetal.
    • In "One Small Step...", the crew has a funeral with full honors for an early space explorer whose body they discovered.
  • The Star Trek: Discovery episode "The Vulcan Hello" shows a fallen Klingon warrior receiving this from his comrades. Instead of being shot into space like a torpedo, however, his coffin comes to rest on the hull of the warship Sarcophagus.
  • In V (1983), one of the female villains ends up sharing a space coffin with the man she arranged to have killed. Only she isn't yet dead when they launch it into space.

    Video Games 
  • In the Chzo Mythos, one of the astronauts mentions that it was popular in the 21st century for people to send their remains into space. Too bad the Space Coffin they stumble across contains the remains of John Defoe.
  • One document found in Rodina mentions the crew of the eponymous Generation Ship cremating their dead comrades in the ship's exhaust.
  • StarCraft: Vice Admiral Stukov was given one of these at the end of the Brood War Terran campaign, with the UED newsreel depicting his coffin being shot into space from the Aleksander. His coffin eventually ended up in the hands of a Zerg cerebrate, who brought him back to life and setting off the chain of events that led to his reappearance in StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm.
  • In Stellaris, your Science Ships might stumble upon a space coffin as an anomaly and find a long-dead alien species inside. You can choose to either examine the body and coffin for a set amount of research points in all three research fields (physics, society, and engineering) or send it on its way to gain a higher number of just society research points. There's a chance that you might make First Contact with said alien species later, in which case they will not be happy about you desecrating their dead like that.
  • In a twist, Sunless Skies has the poor of London having to resort to their coffins just being dumped out in space to float forever in whole fields of glassy debris called Bully's Acres. Those with better means actually get buried in a particular bit of floating terrain turned into a graveyard.
  • The Warframe quest "Call of the Tempestarii" ends with the dead Sevagoth, locked in a lifepod and finally reunited with his shadow, being launched from the Railjack in orbit above Earth.
  • Wing Commander: Almost any pilot (including the player) that dies gets one of these, complete with 21 gun salute as the funeral crew sends the coffin flying into space. In the first game, if it's a wingman that dies Blair vows to avenge the dead pilot... even if he is the reason they died, in an Unfriendly Fire situation.
  • X-Wing and Tie Fighter have one when the player character is killed.

  • A number of funerals in Schlock Mercenary involve "coffinpedoes". At one point a bounty hunter has to retrieve the corpse of one of his bounties from space.
  • A couple strips into Spacetrawler Nogg stated that Martina's body was hurled into a star, the rest of the series is Nogg telling her father the story of how she came to deserve such an honor.

    Western Animation 
  • The Futurama episode "The Sting" did this referencing Star Trek II. Where Fry "dies" due to a space bee sting, and after the funeral, they shoot the coffin out into space with everyone mourning him and giving him a "farewell from the world of tomorrow!"
  • Justice League Unlimited. After Wonder Woman stops the Legion of Doom from stealing the Viking Prince's body, she gives him a Viking Funeral... IN SPACE! This has the very practical goal of either having the sun's fusion destroy the body, or at least keep the Legion from another attempt.
  • An episode of The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians saw Superman receive a space-burial after deadly exposure to Kryptonite.

    Real Life 
  • Since human spaceflight was inaugurated by The Space Race, burial in space is now science fact. And it's actually been done. There are concerns that enable the launch of cremated ashes—typically very small portions of a particular person's remains—to be launched into space. In most cases, they go into low Earth orbit, where they typically re-enter after a few weeks, to be spread high in Earth's atmosphere.
    • A portion of Gene Roddenberry's ashes were put in a capsule and launched into low earth orbit, where it stayed for a few months before re-entering the atmosphere.
    • James Doohan's ashes were also launched into space, but returned to Earth much sooner.
    • As of 2022, there are remains of only two humans currently somewhere other than Earth (or in low enough orbit around Earth that they will eventually return):
      • A portion of the ashes of Eugene Shoemaker, a geologist and astronomer who pioneered lunar and planetary geology, were placed on the Lunar Prospector probe that was deliberately crashed into the Moon in 1999, making Shoemaker the first human to be buried on another world.
      • Clyde Tombaugh has gone one better. Some of the ashes of the discoverer of Pluto are aboard the New Horizons spacecraft, which flew past Pluto in 2015 on its way out of our Solar System. Cue the jokes about the IAU delisting Pluto so he could power New Horizons by spinning in his grave.
  • During the Gemini program, the question was raised as to what action to take if an astronaut died during an EVA, since it would be impossible for his colleague to fit the body back into the cramped cabin. The initial instruction was to re-enter with the hatch open, towing the body behind the capsule on its safety tether. Only after it was pointed out that this would result in the capsule burning up was the decision changed to "Okay, cut him loose". If that were to have happened, as noted above, the body would've eventually re-entered on its own, likely within a few weeks.
    • That almost did happen on the Soviet side. Alexei Leonov, who conducted the first EVA during Voskhod 2 on March 18, 1965, had severe mobility issues because his spacesuit inflated. He actually had to deflate his suit to get back into the Volga inflatable airlock and close it. He had a cyanide pill in his helmet in case he was unable to re-enter the spacecraft, and he would've been jettisoned with the airlock if he had died.
  • As lunar landings carried extraordinary risk, William Safire, a speechwriter for President Richard Nixon, prepared a eulogy—"In the event of a Moon Disaster"—in case landed astronauts were stranded on the Moon. It was ready for Apollo 11, but was closest to actually being used with Apollo 13 since that mission suffered a near-catastrophic failure that endangered the crew. Fortunately, that crew was saved.
    Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.
    These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.
    These two men are laying down their lives in mankind's most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.
    They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.
    In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.
    In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.
    Others will follow and surely find their way home. Man's search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.
    For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.
    • If it was ever needed, the president was to telephone each widow-to-be prior to giving the speech. Following the speech, communication to the Apollo vehicle was to be shut off, and a clergyman was to conduct the Burial-at-Sea liturgy.
  • All this being said, as of 2022, no human has ever needed to be buried in space after dying in space.note  Hopefully it stays that way for as long as possible. But as more humans venture into space, and more easily, it could very well happen for real someday. Debate is currently ongoing about what to do if someone dies during a long-duration mission away from Earth. Procedures are hazy on what NASA, Roscosmos, ESA, or CNSA would do if an astronaut, cosmonaut, or taikonaut died in Earth orbit—particularly on a space station—but the presumption is that the deceased's remains would be returned to Earth, likely contained within a spacesuit aboard a returning spacecraft. The main question is how to store their remains prior to return, so that their decomposition doesn't pollute the space station's environment.
  • Burial in the Sun? See this section in Hurl It into the Sun for that. Spoiler: it's hard.


Video Example(s):


X-Wing K.I.A.

If a player is shot down and fails to eject in time, they are subjected to a scene of their funeral, where the coffin containing their remains is lowered into the atmosphere of a nearby planet and cremated via re-entry.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / BurialInSpace

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