December 13, 2011
VA Legislature Wants To Give Tax Break For Space Burials
Virginia legislators are proposing a tax break for residents who want their remains launched into space when they pass.
The legislation is being proposed in part to boost the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, and to also boost the economy in general. The General Assembly is set to debate the proposal next year, which could provide a state income tax deduction of up to $8,000 effective from 2013 to 2020 for those wishing to be buried in space.
“I know there's a giggle factor, but it's time to get over that,” J. Jack Kennedy, a board member of the Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority, told WTVR news in Richmond, Virginia. “This is about business and job opportunities.”
Space burials have become more common since 1997, when the partial remains of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, acid-guru Timothy Leary and 22 others were rocketed into space. But in reality, people are not really being “buried” in space on an everlasting journey orbiting Earth. The spaceflight can last anywhere from minutes to years depending on the service requested by the customer, and how much they are willing to pay.
The company offering the services, Houston, Texas-based Celestis, says it has launched 10 “memorial spaceflights” since its inception in 1997. Costs range from $1,000 for a short jaunt into suborbital space before returning back to Earth, and $10,000 to have one´s ashes sent to the moon.
Another service, called Voyager Service, is scheduled to launch sometime in 2014 and will launch people´s remains on “a voyage through deepest space, leaving the Earth-Moon system on a permanent celestial journey,” according to a statement on the company´s website.
The cost for a single-gram sample of someone´s ashes would start at $12,500.
Celestis has said it has no immediate plans to use the Virginia spaceport on Wallops Island, CEO Charlie Chafer said that could change. “It´s very logical location and one that would suit our needs,” he told WTVR.
Donna Bozza, director of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission, said a space burial launched from Wallops would attract family and friends of the deceased. They would most likely eat at local restaurants, stay at hotels and visit area attractions.
“If you´re spending that money to go to space, you´re going to want your peeps to cheer you on,” Bozza told WTVR.
The proposal to give people a tax break for space burials is the brainchild of Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott County. Kilgore also filed another bill that would clarify a law passed last year that funnels tax revenue into the spaceflight authority.
Virginia lawmakers in recent years have approved numerous bills designed to attract aerospace companies to its spaceport. And VA Governor, Bob McDonnell, who is due to release a two-year state budget this month, has promised to increase financial support to the spaceport.
The Wallops facility is already set to begin hosting rocket launches to the International Space Station next year, but currently has no plans for human spaceflight launches aboard commercially-built spaceships.
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