We've entered the age of a new space race, only this time it's between companies hoping to send the cremated remains of your loved ones to the moon, where they'll spend eternity with Buzz Aldrin's footprints and that flag from MTV. This week, San Francisco-based Elysium Space announced it will launch "symbolic portions" of ashes to the moon for $11,950. (Although the first 50 takers get a $2,000 discount.) "Families now have the historic opportunity to commemorate their departed love ones every night through the everlasting splendor and soft illumination of the Earth's closest companion: the Moon," says the company. Elysium doesn't have its own rockets, notes Space.com. Instead, it's teamed up with robotics company Astrobotic Technology to hitch a ride, and plans its first lunar memorial launch later this year. As Popular Science explains, the ashes won't be buried; instead the capsules will sit on the moon's surface, "like space litter."
With its announcement, Elysium will be competing against a company out of Houston called Celestis, which plans to start launching ashes to the moon in the next few years for the slightly higher price of $12,500. Both companies currently offer the lesser option of shooting ashes into orbit. Elysium says one of its first customers will be Tennessee's Steven Jenks, who approached Astrobotic with a request to send up his mother's ashes. Reason? When she wrote letters to her Army soldier son, she always signed them, "I love you to the Moon and back." A blogger at Wired is mostly sold on the idea. "We're not sure this is what Elon Musk and SpaceX had in mind when it decided to revolutionize space travel," writes Liat Clark. "But innovation takes on all kinds of guises." (NASA recently provided a rare glimpse at the dark side of the moon.)