Well, this is a hi-tech development we didn't see coming. A rapidly aging society and very limited real estate space has forced Japan to turn away from tradition and look toward alternative burial methods. Instead of laying ancestors to rest six feet under, San Francisco-based company Elysium Space (yep, like the sci-fi film) is offering a new service that allows Japanese and, as of recently, US customers to commemorate their loved ones at 1,214,400 feet — above ground.
The concept of Elysium Space is, without question, unorthodox when it comes to funeral processions. In place of a burial ceremony, relatives book a "memorial spaceflight." The departed's ashes are placed in an aluminum alloy capsule, which is sent into the universe via spacecraft along with a message engraved on the rocket's metal plates.
After launching from Cape Canaveral in Florida, the craft then orbits the Earth for several months. The path of the ashes can be tracked through Elysium Space's mobile app, which displays the exact position of the craft along with the view of the Earth. When the mission is complete, the spacecraft reenters the atmosphere, "blazing as a shooting star." Whether or not the remains are returned to relatives is unclear.
To book a memorial spaceflight, it'll cost you $1,990, which is far less than what most Americans spend on graves (at least $3,000 for a headstone and site). The first launch is scheduled for Summer 2014. A competing memorial spaceflight provider called Celestis offers a wider array of services, including launches into lunar orbit or deep space that do not return to Earth.
Given the opportunity, would you send your loved one's ashes — or even your own — to space? Or is the idea of memorial space missions too bizarre?