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Burial, Cremation or Outer Space?

MIAMI (AFP) - - A US funeral business that specializes in launching cremated human remains into Earth's orbit has begun taking reservations for landing small capsules of ashes on the moon, announced the company's founder.

"Celestis' first general public lunar mission could occur as early as 2010 and reservations are now being taken," said Charles M. Chafer, Celestis founder and president, in an email to AFP.

"We can send up to 5000 individual capsules to the lunar surface," he said.

The company hopes to install a cemetery on the lunar surface to hold cremated remains of the dead, or a smaller symbolic portion of them, which one day could be visited by relatives of the deceased, said Chafer.

For transportation, Celestis has made deals with two other US private space companies, Odyssey Moon and Astrobotic Technology, which are currently working on making commercial flights to the moon.

For sending a tiny, one gram portion of cremated remains to the moon, the company charges 9,995 dollars, according to Celestis' website.

Other funeral services besides the full lunar trip include sending ash into Earth's orbit -- the cheapest option, starting at 700 dollars -- and all the way up to launching remains far, far away into deep space, for which the company charges more than 37,000 dollars.

The latter option is expected to be available from 2011, after the development of a special capsule to hold the remains, the company said.

Ten years ago NASA paid tribute to top US astronomer Eugene Shoemaker by carrying into space a portion of his cremated remains.

After a year in lunar orbit Shoemaker's remains were intentionally planted on the moon's south pole, the first time human remains have been landed on the lunar surface -- but maybe not the last time.

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