Its most popular services, which place remains into payloads on third-party commercial rockets, are Earth Rise, where cremated remains are transported suborbitally for a cost of $1,295 and returned to Earth; and Earth Orbit, where remains travel around the Earth and then released into space for a fee of $4,995. It also plans to offer a DNA service for those who don't choose cremation next year. The company will take a person's DNA sample and bond it with a silica-type agent to create a fillable capsule that can be transported into space.
Three-year-old Elysium Space offers a "Shooting Star Memorial" for $1,190, which involves launching a loved one's remains into space and seeing it turn into a fireball when it reenters the Earth's atmosphere. While it flies through space, family and friends can track its location and watch the flight from the capsule's point of view via a mobile app.
According to Celestis co-founder and CEO Charles Chafer, more than 1,000 people have used the company's services since they introduced them in 1997. Over the years, the company has flown 14 missions into space on third-party rockets, including the UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL launch vehicle. "People are often surprised at the cost," Chafer said. "It costs less than the average U.S. funeral."
As he explained, space burials are not just for futurists like "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry, who had his ashes loaded into a Celestis spacecraft and released in space as part of his last wishes.
"What we typically see are people who step out at night and look at the stars, and they say, 'I want to be a part of that,'" said Chafer. "People want something special, something that says something about who they were and what they believed in."
"They are motivated by different factors," he said. "Some are cost-related, some are environment and some are religious or spiritually-related."