LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Call it another giant leap for mankind.
Celestis Inc., which launched cremated bits of "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry and LSD guru Timothy Leary into the heavens more than three years ago, is now taking reservations to bury the dearly departed on the moon as early as next year.
A commercial rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base or Cape Canaveral will include a payload of lipstick-size capsules containing cremated remains of about 200 people.
The four-day, 240,000-mile flight to the moon and then collision with its surface will run $12,500 per person.
"We are trying to open the space frontier for everyone," Celestis co-founder Charlie Chafer said from company headquarters in Houston. "The funeral industry is changing dramatically, from e-commerce to new and unique methods of memorialization. The baby
boomers want to do things a little differently."
Lunar geologist Mareta N. West, who helped pick the Sea of Tranquility landing site for Apollo 11 in 1969, has the first confirmed reservation on a flight late next year or early 2002. She died in 1998 at 83.
Chafer is in discussions with two companies planning moon missions to share space in their capsules. The transportation itself will be provided on rockets launched by Orbital Sciences Corp., one of the world's leading commercial space companies. NASA isn't involved.
Each capsule contains about 7 ounces of ash, a fraction of the 5 to 7 pounds an average cremated body weighs. They are inscribed
with the name of the deceased and an epitaph.
There is precedent for such a mission. The cremated remains of Dr. Eugene Shoemaker, co-discoverer of the Shoemaker-Levy comet,
were stashed in a capsule, put aboard NASA's Lunar Prospector two years ago and sent to the moon.
The Navajo tribe got an apology from NASA after complaining about the Shoemaker lunar burial. Traditional members of the country's largest tribe, which has about 250,000 members, regard the moon as sacred.
"It's unfortunate that people have to come up with schemes any way they can just to make money," Navajo spokesman Ray Baldwin
Louis said from Window Rock, Ariz.
On the Net:http://www.celestis.com
On the Net:http://www.orbital.