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Virginia ponders tax breaks for (dead) human space flights

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The US may not be able to singlehandedly put a live man into space right now, but Virginia politicians may be about to boost the number of dead Americans catapulted into orbit.

The Virginia General Assembly is soon to consider a bill that will allow an income tax deduction of up to $8,000 (£5,100) for burials in space, WTVR reports.

The tax break for families who decide to commemorate their loved ones by hurling their earthly remains as far away as possible is part of a plan to boost the prospects of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia.

The bill is being sponsored by Terry Kilgore, a republican state pol, but it has the support of local boosters keen to capitalise on Wallops Island's evolution from a site for weather and military satellite launches to the much more useful shooting of human ashes.

Tourism commissioner Donna Bozza told the station that the break would boost local businesses in the area, as mourners flooded the hotels and restaurants, and other attractions, around the spaceport.

"If you're spending that money to go to space, you're going to want your peeps to cheer you on," she reportedly said. J Jack Kennedy, a member of the board of directors for the Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority, was similarly respectful, saying: "This is about business and job opportunities."

If the bill passes muster, Wallops Island will find itself in competition with Texas-based Space Services, which has performed 10 "memorial spaceflights" at prices ranging from $995 per gram of cremated remains. Space Services' next flight, scheduled for Q1 2012, is already booked out, though it has yet to name its favoured hotel partners for attending family members.

Celestis doesn't actually place your loved one in permanent orbit, never mind sending them on a neverending trajectory through the stars. Rather, "each spacecraft stays permanently attached to a rocket stage that orbits Earth until the spacecraft harmlessly re-enters and is completely consumed by Earth’s atmosphere — blazing like a shooting star in final tribute to the passengers aboard".

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