'Lunar Memorial' - Rest in Peace on the moon for $12,000

The Moon

Many people dream of travelling to the moon, but if all else fails, they can now be laid to rest there.

Celestial funeral firm Elysium Space is now offering a "Lunar Memorial," in which your cremated remains are privately dispatched to the moon. But it'll cost you—the early bird rate starts at $9,950 for the first 50 participants, but costs $11,950 thereafter.

The San Francisco-based company was founded in 2013 and launched the service in August after clinching a contract with space logistics company Astrobotic Technology. The first batch of ashes will hitch a ride on Astrobotic's inaugural lunar mission, which the space logistics firm told CNBC it hopes to launch in the second half of 2017. 

"Families who choose our celestial services have a special connection with space or the night sky, for poetic reasons, or because they love the idea of a memorial spaceflight," Elysium founder and former NASA engineer, Thomas Civeit, told CNBC via email.

Families of the departed will be mailed a kit, including an engravable metal box, into which a small amount of cremated remains— approximately one gram —is entered. The remains are then sent back to Elysium, which places them alongside around 100 other portions of cremated remains to be prepared for take-off.

Astrobotic's Griffin Lander spacecraft will then deliver the ash-filled capsules to the moon's surface.

Elysium's ambitions also extend beyond the solar system. The company hopes to offer a "Milky Way Memorial" by year-end that will see human remains sent into deep space, "leaving the solar system to traverse the infinite universe." An exact launch date and price for the service are yet to be set.

In addition, the company has been soliciting reservations for its $1,990 "Shooting Star memorial" since 2013. This will launch its first 100 ash capsules into space later this Fall and hopes to send a second batch by year-end. These capsules will orbit the earth for several months before falling back to earth and burning up through the atmosphere—like shooting stars.

The Shooting Star service is far cheaper than the Lunar Memorial, with Civeit describing the former as "within reach of most families." The average cost of an adult funeral in the U.S is $7,000, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

"People often think about technology when they think about space. However, space has other inherent values, like the beauty of the night sky, which can be used to create poetic memorial services," Civeit said.

"The idea that humankind can look up at the Moon and poetically commune with its ancestors is probably as old as the human culture itself."

Space memorials may not be mainstream just yet, but Civeit said his company was sustainable, with the Shooting Star service already turning a profit. The company has also received an undisclosed amount of funding from an angel investor.

However, Elysium has competition.

Celestis, an affiliate of Space Services, a Houston-based aerospace company, is advertising a rival "Luna Service" for a starting price of $12,500 and hopes to start delivering batches of cremated remains by the latter half of 2018.

Currently, Celestis delivers ashes for $1,295 to low orbit, where the capsules burn up and return to earth shortly after reaching zero gravity. Its Shooting Star-equivalent is called "Earth Orbit" and costs $4,995, while its deep space "Voyager Service" has a $12,500 price tag and is due to launch in 2017.

Celestis has partnership agreements with Astrobotic, like Elysium Space, and also with commercial space company Moon Express. They'll also be latching onto Astrobotic's first lunar launch with their own collection of human ashes.

Charles Chafer, CEO and founder of Celestis, told CNBC that over the past 20 years, he's learned that there's more to the space funeral business than meets the eye.

"We assumed we'd just be receiving ashes, putting them in container and then taking them to launch site…But we're dealing with people, and dealing with various stages of grief and joy," Chafer said.

"It's a personal service. That's been biggest learning curve we've had."

 

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