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Looking for an extraordinary way to send off your departed loved ones? Space burial might just be it

By Melanie Uson Published Mar 08, 2023 2:53 pm

Sending off your departed loved ones may be one of the most bittersweet moments in life. As they embark on a new journey into the unknown, we remember our beautiful memories with them by giving a meaningful tribute.

Other than the common burial, some opt to keep their ashes in an urn or even scatter them into the sea. If you are looking for more ways to make the send-off even more special, why not start their journey in deep space?

Tomoko Kasai, a 62-year-old veteran in the funeral service industry and a founder of Space NTK, offers space burial services. 

"I had been (in the funeral business) for 20 years but felt something was lacking. Then I remembered that as a child, I wanted to become a star when I died, and got the idea of doing space burials," she said in an interview with Kyodo News. 

Having a big dream, she knew she will have a hard time turning it into a reality in Japan. This prompted her to travel to the United States to attend a space industry conference to present her idea, which then enabled her to get in touch with Japanese engineer of SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk. 

"I was told, 'Mr. Elon is next to me right now, and would like to help you scatter ashes in space.' I was happy just being able to send a portion of a person's ashes, but Mr. Elon said a whole body's worth was also possible since (SpaceX's) rocket was big. Since Mr. Elon suggested it, I decided to do it," Kasai said. 

Space NTK first launched its Magokoro satellite, onboarding remains of five people and five pets, DNA, and messages orbiting at an estimated 500 to 600 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. 

Space burials offer services both for humans and pets. Its starting price is 550,000 yen (over P220,000), which includes 50 grams of ashes. For a whole human body worth of ashes which weighs roughly 2 kilograms, the burial starts at 7.7 million yen (over P3 million).  

Space NTK’s space burial is set for its next launch in late 2023, and Kasai wants to make sure that she will be hands-on with the project. She shared that she will personally bring her customers’ ashes to their headquarters in the United States until its launch into space. 

"It is, of course, a huge responsibility that I cannot entrust to anyone else. As long as I am alive, I will take (the ashes) there personally," she said. 

Customers will be able to monitor the ashes using a provided QR code until their reentry into the atmosphere.  

“That is, until it reenters the atmosphere and burns up like a shooting star—a journey that takes around five to seven years.” 

Other than space burials, Space NTK also offers living funerals, also known as seizenso in Japan.

This ceremony is often availed by some elderly Japanese so as to lift the burden off their children for organizing their funerals after they die. 

Gearing for its launch for trips in 2026 and 2027, Kasai shared that NTK has already 64 reservations with Space Perspective in holding living funerals. This service is priced at $175,000 (over P9 million) per person, including the “roundtrip flight to the United States for launch in Florida, a luxury hotel stay, and full Japanese-language support.” 

Customers who will avail of the ceremony will ride in the stratospheric balloon-borne capsule, and it will be a six-hour trip to “the edge of space above 99 percent of Earth's atmosphere.” No special training is needed. 

"Anybody that is physically able to fly to the United States can go on this trip. People can go as a family, or even hold a wedding ceremony on board," Kasai shared. 

Before Space NTK’s space burial, Texas-based Celestis has been offering memorial space services since 1997 priced at around $2,495 (P144,000) to $12,500 (P726,000). They have sent out the ashes of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and his wife Majel, as well as Philip Chapman, the first Australian-born astronaut and a mission scientist for Apollo 14.