Make your home page

Indiana woman’s ashes among many aboard spacecraft heading to the moon

JoAnn Holder, of Jeffersonville, Indiana. Holder, who died in 2019, had her ashes launched into outer space aboard the Vulcan Centaur spacecraft that launched from Cape Canaveral around 2:18 a.m. Jan. 8, 2024. (Provided Photo/Celestis)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An Indiana woman’s ashes were one among hundreds of remains that were launched into space en route to the moon on Monday.

JoAnn Holder, born in Jeffersonville in 1937 and died in 2019, was among 256 capsules containing human remains that were on board the Vulcan Centaur as a payload from space burial company Celestis.

The Vulcan Centaur took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, around 2:18 a.m. Monday. The mission also aimed to be the first U.S. moon landing mission since 1972.

Holder was described in a testimonial on Celestis’ website as a beloved grandma and passionate woman “fascinated” by the space race. Her “love of space was passed on to her son and was part of her life through his graduation in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Purdue.”

Holder’s son described his mother in a video featured in the testimonial, where he attributes his connection to rocket launches and space to her.

“I’ve been in the business of launching rockets and satellites for over 30-some years, and it goes back to my mom,” he said. “When I was a baby, (she started) me out and putting me in front of a television set and having me watch those early launches in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo era.”

He added that his mother was incredibly passionate about the space race even back then, and it inspired him to pursue the career he did. “I just knew that’s what I wanted to do,” he said.

Outside of space, Holder loved photographing sunrises, oceans, and beaches, and was a “die-hard Boilermaker fan” who was well-known by many in the Purdue athletics community.

Holder also served as one of the first class of Indianapolis Public School Police Officers and climbed the ranks to sergeant before retiring.

She also lived life to the fullest well into her 80s, even purchasing a silver Mustang convertible that she “cruised around Florida and over to the Kennedy Space Center, where she became known to all the guides and visitor center personnel.”

According to the testimonial, she saw over “two dozen launches from Kennedy Space Center, including 13 space shuttle launches.”

Her family concluded the testimony by saying Holder’s launch to space was fulfilling a lifelong wish.

“Her desire to reach the stars was something she began talking about in the shuttle era, and we assured her that she would get that wish,” the post read.

Celestis describes themselves as the first company “to have successfully conducted Memorial Spaceflight Missions, the only company to have been selected by NASA to honor one of its scientists, and for more than two decades an iconic pioneer and global leader of the commercial space age.”

The memorial flights range in price anywhere from $3,000 to $13,000, and can deliver the remains into both the Earth and moon’s orbit, the moon’s surface, or into deep space outside the solar system.

United Launch Alliance launches its next-generation Vulcan rocket on its maiden flight at 2:18 a.m. EST Monday Jan. 8, 2024, from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. (Malcolm Denemark/Florida Today via AP)