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One Bill’s Aim: Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Stardust

Tax breaks proposed for people who are planning to send their remains into orbit, or even outer space.

RICHMOND (Capital News Service) – For the average person, the sky is no longer the limit, but you just might have to be dead first.

Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, is proposing legislation to provide tax breaks to Virginia residents who send their cremated remains into outer space. Under House Bill 19, Virginians would get an income tax deduction if they entered a prepaid contract with a commercial space flight entity “to place the taxpayer’s human cremated remains into earth or lunar orbit from a spaceport facility operated by the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority.”

The tax break would be in effect from 2013 through 2020. Eligible taxpayers could deduct from their taxable income up to $2,500 in any one year and up to $8,000 total.

While the measure may seem a bit out of this world, it has a down-to-earth purpose: economic development.

The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority operates the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, or MARS, on Wallops Island on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Proponents say incentives like tax breaks for “space burials” will help launch the fledgling industry.

It’s an idea both Republicans and Democrats can agree on.
The chief patron of HB 19 is Kilgore, who represents House District 1, which includes Lee and Scott counties, the city of Norton and part of Wise County in southwest Virginia.

The bill’s co-sponsor is Delegate Lynwood Lewis, a Democrat who represents House District 100, which includes the Eastern Shore and parts of Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

HB 19 is awaiting action by a subcommittee of the House Finance Committee.
Kilgore and Lewis hope the measure will boost interest in space exploration since NASA’s space shuttle program ended in July. They also hope it will fuel business at the spaceport on Wallops Island.

The spaceport is gearing up for that business.

“What I can tell you is, we’re very busy on our end getting our new launch pad complete. I am aware of the market for space burial, and I certainly think it’s a good idea,” said Rick Baldwin, spaceport manager at MARS.

Some companies also think space burials are a good idea.

Celestis Inc., based in Houston, began offering “memorial spaceflights” to the public in 1997. For $995, the company will launch a canister of remains into space and have it return to Earth. For $2,995, the remains can orbit Earth. Moon orbit is available for $9,995.

In 2014, Celestis will begin sending remains into “deep space.” The price: $12,500.

[Capital News Service is an entity of Virginia Commonwealth University.]

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