Company offers moon as final resting place

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The moon could become a final resting place for some of mankind thanks to a commercial service that hopes to send human ashes to the lunar surface on robotic landers, the company said on Thursday.

Celestis, Inc., a company that pioneered the sending of cremated remains into suborbital space on rockets, said it would start a service to the surface of the moon that could begin as early as next year.

The cost starts at $10,000 for a small quantity of ashes from one person.

Celestis president Charles Chafer said his company reached an agreement with Odyssey Moon Ltd. and Astrobotic Technology Inc., to attach capsules containing cremated remains onto robotic lunar landers.

Odyssey Moon and Astrobotic are among private enterprises seeking to land a robotic craft on the moon and conduct scientific experiments. The cremation capsules would remain on the moon with the lunar landers when the missions were complete.

Chafer said he expected about 1,000 capsules containing ashes to be launched on the first lunar mission, expected in late 2009 or early 2010, and about 5,000 on future flights.

“The moon is a special place,” Chafer said, adding a half dozen people had already signed up for the service.

“For many people, it would be a romantic notion to look up into the sky and see the moon and know that your mom or dad or loved one is up there memorialized.”

In the past 11 years, Celestis Inc., a unit of Houston-based Space Services Incorporated, has sent the ashes of hundreds of people from 14 nations into space, including U.S. astronaut Gordon Cooper and “Star Trek” actor James Doohan, who played chief engineer Scotty in the popular TV series.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant, Editing by Frances Kerry