Fly Me to the Moon ... Forever
A Spaceloft SL-2 rocket is launched Saturday, April, 28, 2007, from Spaceport America carrying the ashes of about 200 people whose family members were on hand to witness the launch. The launch was the spaceport's first successful mission.
Credit: AP Photo/Mark Lambie.

The general public may soon have the chance to rest in peace on the moon, at least briefly. Houston-based Celestis, Inc. has announced plans to launch cremated human remains to the surface of the moon as soon as 2009.

A small portion ? 1 gram ? of the encapsulated cremated remains of one person can be sent to the moon for $9,995. The price includes the option of watching the launch, an inscription of the deceased's name on an accompanying plaque, and complimentary scattering of the remainder of the remains at sea near the launch site.

For $29,985, Celestis will launch 14 grams total of the cremated remains of two people together.

These prices do not include cremation, which can generally cost about $2,000, said Doug Sholette, funeral director of the Frary Funeral Home in Ogdensburg, N.Y. For comparison, coffin burials on Earth usually cost at least $5,000, Sholette said.

One gram of cremated remains is less than 1 percent of the average person?s remains, which usually weigh 3 to 5 pounds, Sholette said.

When Celestis sends a person's ashes to the moon, they stay within a capsule in a spacecraft on the lunar surface forever, and are not dispersed.

"We are pleased to schedule these Luna Service missions, to extend our leadership in the commercial space industry, and ? most importantly ? to serve our global community of families and loved ones wishing to honor the life of a special person," said Charles M. Chafer, Celestis founder and president.

Celestis has partnered with Odyssey Moon Limited and Astrobotic Technology, Inc., which will do the actual transporting of the remains to the moon.

Future customers won't be the first people to have their remains spread on the moon. In 1998, Celestis, at the request of NASA, provided a Luna Flight Capsule to the family and friends of the late legendary astronomer and planetary geologist Eugene Shoemaker. The Celestis Flight Capsule, containing a symbolic portion of Shoemaker?s cremated remains, was attached to NASA?s Lunar Prospector spacecraft and launched on a one-year mission orbiting the moon.

On July 31, 1999, at the completion of Lunar Prospector's mission, the spacecraft was intentionally crashed into the moon's south pole, making Shoemaker the first human to be laid to rest on another celestial body. NASA called the memorial "a special honor for a special human being."

Since 1997, Celestis has been sending human remains into Earth orbit. The company conducted six memorial spaceflights for people from 14 nations, including "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry, Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper and "Star Trek" actor James Doohan ("Scotty"). The next Celestis mission, set for June 2008, will send the remains of 205 participants to Earth orbit aboard a Falcon 1 rocket.