Whether you want your ashes scattered, cremated or safely stored in an ornamental urn, there are dozens of ways to plan your final passage. But shooting them into space is definitely new on the list.
Elysium Space, a privately-owned new business that launched in 2013, may not be able to shoot you off to Mars for good. Instead, they offer something infinitely more affordable (and less dramatic) than a one-way ticket to the red planet.
Sci-fi fans will surely be instantly romanced by Elysium Space's vision of the final frontier: They will take the ashes of your loved one, launch them into space in a special capsule which you can engrave your own personal message on, and let it orbit the Earth for several months before it re-enters the atmosphere, burning into a shooting star.
You can track the event using the company's app, which shows you at all times where the memorial craft is. The launch will also be webcasted and recorded, so you can see off a beloved family member (yes, even the dog) in a meaningful way and have a record of it to look back on later.
Thomas Civeit, the founder of Elysium Space, spent years working as a NASA engineer on projects like Hubble and the James Webb Space Telescope before he got the idea for the memorial project. He spoke to HLN about why he believes the service can dignify a loved one's memory.
HLN: When was Elysium Space launched, and what gave you the idea?
Thomas Civeit: We debuted the site in early August. We are planning our first launch in Summer 2014. We also plan to offer the service as an add-on available in funeral homes. This will come to the Japanese market first, and will debut in October 2014, and other countries will follow.
I first thought of the idea in 2010. Many companies were developing services using space technology, and I wanted to do something that was unique and meaningful. Elysium Space uses concepts of technology and science, but it also goes beyond that.
HLN: Is Elysium Space the first project of its kind?
Civeit: It is not, but it is the most affordable. I suspect other companies that offer it at a higher price are not using new technology, so that could result in a higher price tag.
HLN: How have people reacted to what the service offers so far?
Civeit: People have shown us that they are prepared for it, ready for it. We have seen a lot of response and orders have been placed. One question we have gotten a lot is about orbital pollution, and concern that the service would cause it. Since the memorial craft re-enters orbit at the end of its cycle and is burned up, there will be no pollution left behind, so there's nothing to worry about in that aspect.
HLN: Would you like to expand the company's offerings in the future, and if so, what do you have in mind?
Civeit: We do have a long-term vision. For now, we only send a portion of the ashes into orbit, but in the future we'd like to offer full-scale burial (sending all the ashes versus just a portion). We'd also like to offer more specific destinations as well, such as sending the ashes into the sun.
HLN: We have to ask: if you could get a one-way ticket to Mars, would you go?
Civeit: I will wait to have something to do on Mars! I don't want to go there and just be in a space station for 50 years. But if there was more there? Yes, I would go.