Offer a personalized star for Christmas, or buy your late loved one a celestial sepulcher, a Texas company specializing in extra-terrestrial services for space lovers has a gift line that few others can match.
Space Services Inc. certainly markets its gifts out of this world. Since 1997 the company has offered the opportunity to have one's ashes, post-cremation, delivered up into orbit for posterity.
More recently, the company has offered the chance for people to single out a star have it named for whoever they like.
“We are attempting to give the public around the world the opportunity to be involved in very real space missions,”said Space Services chief executive Charles Chafer.
The challenge of arranging space flights for its special payload notwithstanding, the company's space burials have taken off. It is preparing for its sixth launch in March 2006.
The cost is not out of orbit, however. The company charges by the weight, US$995 for a capsule containing one gram of a person's ashes, and up to US$5,300 for seven grams, inserted into a container which resembles a lipstick tube.
More recently Space Services has come up with a new idea, to allow people to name stars, at least unofficially. The idea is that people will name stars for their loved ones as gifts.
For a start, the company has listed stars in a catalogue. Customers tell the company a constellation or astrological sign that interests them, and the company officers a list of possibilities. From there the process is automated ?an e-mailed star certificate, a photograph of the star, and other helpful information.
However, the company plans to take it much further. Next year a customer will be able to look at their star by tapping into a page on the company's Web site that is connected to a robot-controlled telescope in the Canary Islands.
Moreover, said Chafer, the star's name and a personal message can be launched into space on a disc carried by a commercial rocket.
“People love star gifts because of the fascination with space and the romance stars represent,”said Susan Schonfeld, communications director for Space Services. “Everybody has his own star.”
“It's a symbolic gesture. Nobody actually, officially named a star,”Chafer said.
Chafer said he started his company to allow people to take part in space exploration.