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Space burials take root in Japan as funerals get more costly

This framegrabbed image provided by NASA-TV shows the

This framegrabbed image provided by NASA-TV shows the Cygnus spacecraft at the 30 meter hold point from the International Space Station as both cross over the Atlantic Ocean. (Sept. 29, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

Burial options in Japan are expanding beyond the traditional Buddhist ceremony. You can now send a loved one’s ashes into space.

Closely held Elysium Space Inc. is offering a service in Japan to send a portion of a person’s cremated remains in a capsule that will circle the earth for several months for $1,990. Relatives and friends can track the spacecraft’s trajectory on a mobile phone app. Like a meteorite, the remains disintegrate upon entering the earth’s atmosphere, “blazing as a shooting star,” according to a company statement.

About one gram of a person’s remains are placed into an individual “space-grade” aluminum capsule, Benjamin Joffe, a spokesman for the company said in an email. Missions will carry between 100 to 400 individual capsules, he said.

The service will give a new option for Japanese looking to reduce the size and expense of funerals as relatives become fewer and traditional ties weaken in one of the world’s fastest aging societies. The cost of a renting a burial plot and buying a tomb stone in Tokyo is about 2.7 million yen ($27,400), according to Japan Institute of Life Insurance.

The market for funeral services in Japan rose 0.7 percent to 1.3 trillion yen in the year ended March 2010 from a year earlier as the number of aged Japanese increased, according to the marketing and credit research firm Teikoku Databank Ltd. based in Tokyo.

Elysium Space began taking U.S. space burial reservations in the U.S. in August. The San Francisco company’s first launch is scheduled for next summer.

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