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The Ball Street Journal

The Ball Street Journal

Native Americans Protest Moon Launch

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NASA has been going to the moon for over half a century, but this time they may have overstepped their boundaries. On December 21, 2023, Navajo Nation president Buu Nygren sent a letter to NASA and the U.S. Department of Transportation regarding concerns about the upcoming lunar launch. Representing over 400,000 enrolled Navajo Nation members, Nygren stated, ¨The moon holds a sacred place in Navajo cosmology…” according to CNN. NASA announced plans for this mission back in 2015 and a second announcement in 2020. This caused John Thorton, Astrobotic Technology CEO to be, ¨…disappointed that this conversation came up so late in the game. ¨ However, this sacredness of the moon to many Native American tribes has been around for hundreds of years.

The Navajos have a long history in the United States as they are the second largest Native American group in the country. It is believed they originated 800-1,000 years ago in Northwestern New Mexico but have since expanded into mostly modern-day Arizona and Utah. Their culture is centered around balance between all aspects of life. Their ancestors paved this way of life for them. This is how the moon ties into their culture and spiritual beliefs. The Navajos associate the moon with their balance of life and mind. Similarly, the moon is a source of balance for the earth and sun, thus making it extremely important to preserve and protect.

Furthermore, the moon is seen by many Native Americans to be in association with protection, guidance, time, and transformation. Likewise, the Navajos major beliefs are centered around balance and resiliency. The moon is sacred to the Navajos just like many other Native American tribes. Because of this, the desire of NASA to bury cremated remains on the moon is viewed by many Native Americans as deeply disturbing and unacceptable. They would be harming a key aspect of their cultures, beliefs and lives.

Despite the concerns addressed, it was too late to turn back. The Peregrine Mission One launched on January 8, 2024, from the Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 41 in Titusville, Florida. It contained the cremated remains and DNA of over 70 individuals. However, hours into its solo flight, the crew realized it had a propellant leak and was losing fuel. This left the spacecraft without enough fuel to make a safe landing on the moon, so it was forced to make a re-entry into earth’s atmosphere. Just ten days after the launch, the Peregrine Mission One made a controlled landing over the South Pacific Ocean on January 18, 2024.

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The spacecraft disintegrated while reentering along with all the human remains and DNA. This was a relief to the Navajo Nation, however, as the cremated remains never made it to the moon. Although Celestis, one of the other main companies of the flight, has vowed to try again soon.

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