WASHINGTON (AFP) – Offer a personalized star for Christmas, or buy your late loved one a celestial sepulchre, a Texas company specializing in extra-terrestrial services for space lovers has a gift line that few others can match. Houston-based 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 first launch in 1997 carried the remains of 24 men, including Gene Roddenberry the creator of the legendary television series Star Trek; 1960s counterculture icon Timothy Leary, and Princeton University physicist Gerard ONeill. The upcoming launch will also evoke Star Trek memories, carrying remains from the late actor James Doohan, who played the engineer on the spaceship Enterprise.

Name a Star
Shafer, who started his career developing rockets for commercial launches, explained that the company sends into space vials of people’s ashes as a secondary payload accompanying commercial launches of satellites. The ashes are then set into orbit at the same level of the satellite. The cost is not out of orbit, however. The company charges by the weight, 995 dollars for a capsule containing one gram of a person’s ashes, and up to 5,300 for seven grams, inserted into a container which resembles a lipstick tube. “We actually launch what we call a symbolic portion of cremated remains,” Chafer told AFP. “It reflects a growing trend, here in the US and around the world, of doing things with someone’s ashes that will be meaningful for that person.” 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 emailed 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 website 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. With his products, he said, “Not only can you do something meaningful … but you can be part of a real space mission.”

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6 Comments

  1. “space burial” : how fancier could it get! huh! :innocent1_tb:
    “personalized star” : name a star and ‘pay’ the company – what a creative rip off! :smoke_tb:

  2. well, maybe they will call that star Parvez (for example)
    how in gods name would you know wich star it is? wich star is yours?
    i dont know, i really like the idea, its… besides very expensive, something else than flowers or chocolate as birthdaygift 😉

  3. let’s just say, the company gives us a detailed catalog and we also can detect stars in the sky. so what if i choose the same star which was previously named “parvez” and now would like it to be named as “esther the little mermaid”? can i do that? or will there be patent and trademark issues so that you can’t choose the same star which has already been chosen? then who will issue the patent and trademark rights for this hilariously imaginative company? now don’t tell me they have got an exclusive license from our good god to do so! :tongue_laugh_ee:

  4. Parvez, The International Astronomical Union regulates the star-naming. This is what they wrote about it and I quote :

    In response to numerous inquiries on the subject of purchasing star names, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) offers the following information.
    The IAU receives an increasing number of requests from individuals who want to buy stars or star names, or name stars after other persons. The IAU is aware that some commercial enterprises purport to offer such services for a fee. The fact is that such “names” have no formal or official validity whatever; a few bright stars have ancient, traditional Arabic names, but otherwise stars have just numbers and positions on the sky.
    To see that the idea of “buying” stars or star names is inherently absurd, consider that there are perhaps 100,000,000,000 stars in our Milky Way Galaxy alone where other beings might in principle compete on the market. Stars cannot be fenced in, taken home, or locked up in a vault: Like so many of the best things in life, the beauty of the night sky is not for sale, but is there for all to enjoy.
    However, there is now a way to explore the sky in your own home: Large sky surveys have become available in digital form on CD ROM, e.g. from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (catalog@aspsky.org). This allows everyone to browse among many hundreds of millions of stars on your home computer. These maps are the main data base of at least some of the commercial star naming enterprises; why pay a markup for buying the stars one at a time?
    For the sake of completeness, it is noted that these rules apply also to naming star clusters or galaxies as well as to individual stars.

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