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A celestial send-off for the dead

July 10, 1996
Web posted at: 3:00 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent David George

in space

(CNN) -- Space ... the final frontier. And for some, the final resting place.

With an increasing number of people expressing a desire to be cremated and have a portion of their ashes sent to space, some companies, sensing a lucrative business opportunity, are gearing up to meet the demand.

At least one company says it is more than prepared for that kind of space rush. Houston, Texas-based Celestis Inc. plans to launch an orbiting mausoleum of sorts late this year.

Cremated remains -- or "cremains, " as they're called-- will be placed in lipstick-sized containers and shot into space aboard the third stage of a Pegasus or Taurus booster.

"It will orbit anywhere from a year and a half to ten years as kind of a memorial, a statement of interest in space and a memorial of someone's life," said Charles Chafer of Celestis.


"At the end of that period, gravity and the laws of physics being what they are, the entire spacecraft will re-enter the atmosphere and burn up completely like a shooting star."

Celestis will book space on commercial rockets launched by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Virginia.

A Celestis spokesman says the company plans to charge about $4,800 to send a 7 gram capsule of ashes into orbit. The remainder of the remains will remain on earth -- to be buried, scattered, or kept by loved ones.

Timothy Leary, the counterculture guru who died last month, made arrangements to have a portion of his cremated remains launched into space.

The idea appeals to space buffs and scientists too.

"Formerly I was an astronaut with NASA, so I have been in space," said Ron Grabe of Orbital Sciences Corp. "I think this is an ideal way to memorialize an individual."

Back in 1992, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's ashes were carried into space and back aboard the shuttle Columbia.

Now, Roddenberry's widow, Majel Barett-Roddenberry, envisions a one-way trip to the stars for her husband and herself.

"It's somewhere to be a little celestial, perhaps, to find your place out there in the stars."

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