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March 31, 2011

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Firm looks into 'space burials'

A SHANGHAI company is considering promoting "space burials" even though most people think the idea is far-fetched.

Yongjia Internet Technique Co Ltd, a company that sets up websites for people to commemorate their dead relatives, said it's talking to a US company about the space burial.

Yongjia Internet said the cremated remains will be put into a container about the size of a tube of lipstick and put into space on a rocket that will orbit the Earth for several years before burning up in the atmosphere or flying further into space.

"The US company has been doing this for years and has a good reputation," said Ouyang Yunfei, director of Yongjia Internet. "We will target wealthy people with unique tastes in Shanghai."

Ouyang added it's difficult to say when the service will be available in the city as there are many barriers before they can begin.

For example, it's not easy to transport people's ashes out of the country.

According to the Chinese law, one must get permission from civil affairs authorities before taking ashes overseas. One must have a solid reason - such as when a foreigner dies here and the family wants the remains returned to his or her homeland - for obtaining permission.

"We'll talk with the authorities to settle any issues, but I'm not sure how long it's going to take," Ouyang said.

The Shanghai Funeral and Interment Association said the idea is "ridiculous and wildly fantastic."

Wang Hongjie, secretary general of the association, said people should focus on common funeral needs.

"We won't support such 'upmarket' business," Wang said.

Others also expressed shock about space burials.

"I believe only extremely wealthy people can accept the idea," said office worker Maria Jiang. "Also, how can I be sure my relative's ashes are really launched into space or just buried randomly?"

About three years ago, a Beijing funeral service company tried to launch "space burials." The business failed.

"Space burials" started in the US in 1997.

Gene Roddenberry, creator of science fiction TV series "Star Trek," was believed to be the first person in the world to be "buried" in space.


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