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Rest in space: Funeral plan is out of this world

WHAT was once the final frontier could become the final resting place for thousands of Scots thanks to a Glasgow entrepreneur who has launched Europe's first space burial service.

WAY TO GO: People's ashes would be put in a satellite and fired into space.
WAY TO GO: People's ashes would be put in a satellite and fired into space.

Tom Walkinshaw, 23, plans to put people's ashes in a satellite that will be fired into space. He believes the service will appeal to a range of customers.

The space-burial service is already offered in the US – where last year the ashes of Jimmy Doohan, who played engineer Scotty in Star Trek, were among hundreds sent into orbit – but Mr Walkinshaw's company, Alba Orbital, says it is the first to offer the service in Europe.

Mr Walkinshaw, who is from Biggar, South Lanarkshire, and a former business student at Glasgow Caledonian University, believes a number of different groups will be attracted by the idea.

He said: "It will attract space enthusiasts obviously, that's probably the first lot, but also baby boomers – the children of Apollo. They were all told they were going to go to the Moon and fly into space but it's never been viable.

"So we think this will appeal to them. But also explorers and adventurous types who don't want to settle for a boring old funeral.

"It's the idea that if you are confined to a rock all your life, you want to get off the rock." Mr Walkinshaw has now quit his job as a pensions adviser to work full-time on the idea and hopes to have his first customers signed up by the summer and the first flight within two years.

There will be two options for customers. First, a short trip to around 70 miles above the earth and back again, which would cost around £600 per gram of ashes.

There would also be the option of a longer trip – the ashes would spend around 30 days in orbit before burning up. It would cost around £2000 per gram of ashes and friends and family would be able to track the process online.

The Scot says he has encountered some negativity about the idea but denies it is ghoulish.

He added: "It's an optimistic idea. Space has the power to unite nations – the race to the Moon is probably the greatest achievement in mankind's history. It's the high watermark. And it's important to do something that commercialises space because we can't rely on government subsidy."

Mr Walkinshaw did receive some support from the Prince's Trust among others. He has a workspace at the Lighthouse in Glasgow and a new office space on the south side of the city.

He already has a prototype of the satellite that would carry the ashes. It is about the size of a Rubik's Cube and would hold the ashes of around 40 people. The satellite would be attached to a commercial rocket and launched in the US.

The satellite would then either burn up in space or return to Earth, meaning there would be no space junk or environmental impact. Alba Orbital would also offer a memorial service before the launch and a chance to watch the launch on the internet, with a plan to incorporate all religions and beliefs.

He added: "We have quite a lot of sceptics but a lot of the time it's misplaced. Most people get cremated and we only have to hit a tiny percentage of that to be in business. I don't think it's a huge ask."

Mr Walkinshaw also thinks meeting our final end in space is more positive and dignified than other options such as burial.

"It's certainly more space age and 21st century," he said. "And there's an opportunity now in Scotland to be a world leader in small satellites and we want to give it a go."

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