Bereaved families remember Mars astronauts with Franziska Steingen's Soot Home Grieving Set


If an astronaut were to die on their way to the red planet, German designer Franziska Steingen's Soot Home Grieving Set is intended to help their family mourn the loss.

After studying the topic of Mars space travel on a trip to NASA in Houston, Steingen began to consider what would happen if one of the astronauts would die during a mission.

Home Grieving Set SOOT by Franziska Steingen

As funerals on Mars are currently impossible, the German designer aimed to design an object that could provide closure for those mourning on Earth.

"I found the theme of death – as uncomfortable as it may sound – culturally, historically and philosophically very interesting," said Steingen. "After visiting at NASA in Houston, I dealt very intensively with the topic of Mars and the journey there, but I was curious about what would happen if one of the astronauts would die on the way or on the red planet."

Home Grieving Set SOOT by Franziska Steingen

There has been a growing interest in travel to Mars since NASA's robotic Curiosity rover landed on the planet in 2012. The organisation anticipates that its long-term Orion program will facilitate human spaceflight to Mars around the year 2035.

In 2013, over 200,000 people applied for a one-way ticket to join a Mars settlement, and last year NASA ran a competition to find proposals for 3D-printed housing on the red planet.

Steingen's Soot Home Grieving set consists of a glass urn and a candle holder.

Home Grieving Set SOOT by Franziska Steingen

As a body would not be returned to Earth, the urn would be filled with the ashes of the deceased's personal property before being sealed with a wooden stopper.

The second object allows mourners to "visualise the mourning process" by performing a candle-lighting ritual.

Once the candle is lit, it is placed onto a wooden plate and covered by a glass dome supported by a steel frame.

Home Grieving Set SOOT by Franziska Steingen

When the top of the candle flame comes into contact with the metal, soot forms and sticks to the top of the glass dome.

The more the ritual is performed, the darker the glass becomes until it is completely covered with soot.

"Soot allows us to make grief visible in a society in which death and mourning for the dead is still a taboo subject," said Steingen. "Death and mourning is rarely spoken about. People find it hard nowadays to bear the feelings of mourning in the community, although the need to do this is often."

Home Grieving Set SOOT by Franziska Steingen

"The urn gives comfort and pushes us to talk about death and grief and to share this with other people," she added.

Other designers have also created alternative products for holding cremated remains. Neil Conley's non-traditional interpretation involves urns constructed from carbon fibre reclaimed from decommissioned aircraft.

Geraldine Spilker created a process that would bind ashes with resin to produce a memento object, while Mark Sturkenboom designed a "memory box" containing a dildo with a compartment for storing the ashes of a deceased partner.

  • Raphael K

    Insensitive, senseless and vulgar attempt to get attention by merging the shocking subject of death with the trend of Mars travel.

    If I happen to die on Mars one day, I’d rather get my ashes spread on the red planet than end in a cheese bell. To modify a previous comment: if you want to be published on Deezen, simply include a dildo in your design, or a space urn.

    • Ian Nairn

      Insensitive to who? Dead Mars voyagers? Senseless? Well there is a clear rationale behind the project, so that’s nonsense. And is it so crazy that designers respond to the zeitgeist?

      By the time you reached vulgar I’m going to presume you’d just got so carried away you couldn’t stop typing.

    • BigmouthStrikesAgain6

      The “shocking” subject of death? I wonder why you’re so shocked by an inevitable fact of life?

    • Shak

      Or better, a dildo filled with ashes of a deceased relative, oh wait…

      • Raphael K


  • r2d2

    Didn’t the German designer have anything else to do on this planet?

  • Sim

    I like this. Yesterday I saw a movie about Chile. One part of the movie touched on the people who had been taken by the government when it was a dictatorship – the never came back.

    One person in the movie explained that in order to be able to go on living after someone you love dies, you need to see the body, you need to say goodbye to it. He said that not giving the bodies of the deceased back to their loved ones was as if their loved ones had died twice.

    I can ascribe to that idea. My grandmother had a baby that died and in those days hospitals disposed of dead babies because they thought that would be less traumatic. My grandmother lived to be 96 years of age but even in the last year of her life she wept when my mother talked with her about the baby (the baby was my mother’s twin).

  • I feel like the design of the ash belongings is off putting. If it looked like a rocket maybe it could bring some joy into the work they did for the family. Not… this.

  • Rachael Marc

    Don’t know why this is grating on me as a concept. Nothing to do with the moroseness of it, the shape is perhaps juvenile, maybe it’s pretentious or I find it self indulgent.

    I just don’t know why I have such a strong opinion of it, other than I really don’t like it.

  • Pete L

    What you will find is that in most cases the deceased would rather be celebrated than mourned in such a sombre fashion.

    This kind of object is from the imagination of the living with respects to the dead. Products like this should be reversed so that the deceased helps the living to celebrate the life of the departed.

  • Evan

    I don’t find it insensitive or even morose. I just find it completely self indulgent, but under the guise of being “thoughtful” and “intellectual”. Prescribed mourning.

    It reminds me of being in first-year design school when everyone thought the objective of design was to predict and determine people’s reactions and behaviours towards their projects. “You will mourn like this, and you will find closure.” Pretentious bullsh*t.

    • Shak

      That’s so well put I had to register and upvote.

  • Zook

    Leave it to a German to think up new ways to contemplate death.

  • H-J

    I think it is sensitive, beautiful, imaginative and contemplative. Well done.

  • I don’t see a particular relationship with Mars in this. The soot and candle aspect could be utilised for mourning any death, and remains could be stored as they are shown.

    As a futurist solution, this is a stretch, but as an object of beauty and a votive, it’s elegant.

  • Paul Melnik

    I’m going to be honest, I enjoy this work quite a bit. There is something about the vessel in which the ashes are stored in that seems… right. The the candle globe also works with the entire idea. It’s not necessarily a way to say “This is how you need to mourn”, but more of a story piece.

    Someone walking into the area this is kept in will wonder what it is and will ask about it, prompting the mourner to then tell the story of the individual within. So rather than bringing an end to a person and a means with which to be mourn and grieve, this piece also seems to extend and allow the astronaut who’s ashes are within to live on.

    Seeing the ashes rather than hiding them inside an opaque container allows the loved ones of the individual to have a constant reminder of them, and the candle globe allows for those outside of the mourners to see the love that people had for the individual. Both parts allow for the deceased to be essentially immortalized by those who witness this work. But this is just my opinion.