'A Way To Honor Him': Tampa Family Fulfills Deceased Loved One's Lifelong Dream Of Going To Space


Space funeral planned for Tampa Bay man

Jordan Bowen reports

TAMPA, Fla.A Tampa family is honoring their loved one by fulfilling his lifelong wish of going to space. It’s something they never thought possible until they learned about Celestis Memorial Spaceflights.

Going to space is something Melissa Teston said her brother Derek Yanes always dreamed of doing. When he passed away, the family knew they had to do something special to honor him and that’s when they realized his lifelong dream may be possible after all.

“He became obsessed with NASA channels. It wasn’t enough just to watch the launches. It was we needed to follow the missions,” Teston said.

Yanes followed them all. From an early age, Teston said his world revolved around his fascination for space.

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“He loves everything loud. He loved everything fast,” Teston said.

Becoming an astronaut was his dream, but at birth he was diagnosed with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH), which is a chronic condition that affects cortisol and adrenaline production. 

“He would never have been able to do anything with that physical stamina going into the military or being able to go into space himself,” Teston said. “So he always watched from the sidelines and cheered it on.”

In 2019, at just 46-years-old, Yanes passed away after going into adrenal insufficiency following a surgery. Teston – who said goodbye to her dad that same year and her mom three decades earlier – wanted to pay a special tribute to her brother. She started researching memorials and found Celetis Memorial Spaceflights, a program founded in 1994 as way for families to celebrate the life of a loved one by sending their ashes to space.

“We’ve been trying to find a sense of purpose behind this loss. And I think through Celestis and this space memorial, we have found a way to honor him,” Teston said.

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After Teston posted about Yanes’ story on Facebook, donations poured in to help pay for the $6,000 memorial flight. Yanes will be part of the group’s 23rd overall mission “The Ascension Flight” and will be housed in a Cubasat or miniature satellite which will be deployed in a low Earth orbit and circle the planet for the next decade. His family will be able to track his whereabouts and know when he’s passing over.

“My brother didn’t have his own children. My brother didn’t have a spouse. He was his own person here on earth with what he felt was no legacy beyond,” Teston said. “And I think what I’m going to see and feel for him is when he’s passing by us, that that is his legacy. He mattered. He still matters. And he’s going to matter for our future.”

Yanes’ life is being celebrated along with 46 others part of “The Ascension Flight,” which launches next Wednesday at Cape Canaveral. It’s the same place Yanes grew up watching rocket launches with his dad and his sister. She’ll be there next week with several other family members to watch his dream of going to space finally come true.

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