A Sheffield firm has launched a funeral that's really out of this world - having the ashes of a loved one scattered in space for £800.
From next month, Sheffield-based Ascension Flights will launches the first extra-terrestrial funeral service - allowing families to send their loved ones’ remains to the edge of Earth’s atmosphere, where they will be released into the high-altitude winds of the stratosphere.
The company, which was set up by two graduates from the University of Sheffield, has already conducted test flights using weather balloons which soar 21 miles into the air.
Experiments using non-human ash showed that that particles released from canisters can make their way into the upper atmosphere, and even escape Earth’s gravitational pull, to float in the vacuum of space.
Co-founder Dr Chris Rose said: “Many of the first generation of space fans intoxicated by space flight will never experience the thrill of looking back at the Earth and fulfilling their dream of space flight.
“Our new service enables families the opportunity to fulfil their loved ones’ dreams. We feel it’s the ultimate send off for a life well lived.
“Fundamentally, we are all stardust, so this feels like a fitting tribute to those of us who have lived through the prologue to the space age.”
As part of the service flights are filmed so that friends and family can watch the ashes being scattered against the curvature of the Earth. Residual moisture in the canister also freezes instantly, creating a plume of glitter.
The emptied canister then returns to Earth after dispersal and is fitted with a multitude of specialised tracking systems for retrieval.
The company is already in talks with some funeral directors in the UK and the first flight, aboard the purpose-built Ascension 1 craft, is scheduled to take place in November and the company says there has already been keen interest in the service, which starts at £795.
Dr Rose added: "Losing a loved one is an experience everyone will go through and several members of our team have had relatives pass away in the past few years, making this venture a highly personal project.
"Grief is a powerful and unpredictable emotion and the remains of a departed loved one are very precious to those they leave behind. We wanted to be certain that we could provide a consistent, reliable and streamlined service before we offered public flights.
"We’ve actually been developing and testing the mechanism to scatter the ashes for over two years, as well as learning about funeral customs and correct handling of ‘cremains’ from experts in the funeral care industry."