Graham Arthur Mackenzie: shooting his intact dead body into space
The recent Sacramento transplant has aspirations that are morbidly out of this world
In space, no one can hear you scream—especially if you’re dead, in a spaceship and the only human around for billions of miles. This is the goal of recent Sacramento transplant, 41-year-old Graham Arthur Mackenzie: to send his corpse outside of the oppressive clutches of our solar system with your help.
His terrestrial story so far: Mackenzie has been a professional sign language interpreter for over 20 years, is in a master’s program in computer science in the pursuit of working on autonomous vehicles, creates lots of music, has been on Sesame Street. This represents just a smattering of the former Seattleite’s history, and should his lofty, $10 million kickstarter prove successful, the world will see exactly how high he can fly. SN&R chatted with Mackenzie about how, why and when he intends to become the first celestial body.
There’s other space burial options out there—you didn’t go for cremation?
Right. So the problem with those is, there are a number of companies that will put a gram of your ashes into orbit around our planet. It’ll stay in orbit for quite some time, but eventually they will lose enough energy that they will return to Earth, then when that happens they will get burnt up in the atmosphere. So that, to me, is a lovely option to those who want to pursue it, but I’m looking for something much grander. … Getting one of us outside of our solar system, even if not alive, is a good way of setting our stamp on the universe and saying, “We were here.”
I see the $10 million goal—do you think that’s going to happen?
Well, one thing I’ve learned in life is the first failure point in any plan is the strength of the beliefs of the plan creator. So effectively, if a person doesn’t think something can happen, it definitely won’t happen. Whereas, thinking that it will happen is the first necessary part of it actually happening.
Have you reached out to corporations for sponsorships?
I have not. I think I need to lay the groundwork on my own, kind of show that I’m being serious and show that I’m going to work on it—I don’t just want to hit someone up for a handout.
Why should people get behind your dream as opposed to someone else’s?
Trust me, I’ve thought a lot about [this]. The world is full of pressing issues that, to many people’s minds, are more important than this project—but I think that that’s always a way that people phrase these things. There are people who think that we shouldn’t have any kind of space program so long as there’s hunger in the world. I’m totally amenable to that perspective. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the world works … We could cancel that program and there would still be homelessness, so the existence of homelessness is not a reason not to do those things.
I think the truest motivation for me is that this is a tribute and homage to the human spirit, of being scientific and exploring things … so that if and when it succeeds, it will be a very true representation of our spirit as a species.
In the meantime, what kind of assurances are there that the money doesn’t just go into your pocket?
Because people would be donating their hard-earned money … I would definitely want to do whatever is necessary to put them at ease. So effectively, I want to be transparent about the whole process … I would show receipts of every dollar spent. The only money that needs to be spent before I die is on the lawyer hours in setting all the contracts up.
How did you get the idea of launching yourself?
The way that ideas occur to me is a mystery, like it is to everybody. I don’t know, but it’s sort of a melange of all my favorite things. Like a somewhat morbid fascination with my death combined with a love of science, and the love of space travel kind of made it all fit together, I don’t know.
Why you? Why should your corpse be sent into space, as opposed to someone else’s?
I think it’s just me because, A, I’m the one who had this idea. And B, I think the overwhelming majority of people would not want to do this and wouldn’t have the fortitude or the commitment to see it through. And I’m definitely all about commitment to an idea.
How much of your life do you envision putting this project into creation?
Obviously, this would take a lot of time and money and energy, but once it’s set up, assuming the contracts are as ironclad as can be, then effectively the system will just be up and in place, and so then I don’t need to worry about it anymore. It might take a few years or more of getting there, but once it’s ready, effectively, we’re just waiting for me to die.
What else do you want to be remembered for?
Everything is about balance … On the one hand, I would like to be remembered as a person who took life seriously, but not too seriously. Like, life is deadly serious and it’s important to remember that, but also, if we hold on and we white-knuckle, and if we try to make everything be what we want it to be, it’s definitely not going to do that.