The private California-based firm, TransOrbital, plans to charge $2,500 for its lunar delivery service that it hopes to kick off in the last quarter of this year when it launches commercial flights to the moon.

The company, which says it is the only private company to be allowed by US authorities to operate commercial flights to the moon, plans to dump a small cargo of artefacts on the moon's surface with a robotic probe.

"Delivered to the moon surface in a special capsule will be your certificates, business cards, cremated remains, jewellery, artwork and many other items of choice," the company said on its website on Thursday.

The company's president, Dennis Laurie, was quoted by the website space.com as saying that "thousands of people" had paid to have their mementos or dead relatives deposited on the lunar surface.

"We'd like to have as many people either send things to the moon or access the satellite while it's in orbit around the moon as possible," he said.

Costly netoworking stunt

Dispatching a business card to the moon costs $2,500, while other items can fly into outer space for $2,500 a gram. A text message sent to the craft costs a modest $17 to deliver.

TransOrbital's craft will orbit the moon for about three months, sending back video images of its surface, including pictures of the Apollo landing sites of the late 1960s and early 1970s, for sale or use in advertisements.

Then, the space craft will pull out of orbit and smash into the moon, spilling its load of 10 kilograms of personal effects.

The artefacts will be sealed in a protective capsule that will tunnel four to five metres into the lunar surface.

The company staged a test in 2002 when it launched a dummy craft into the earth's orbit from a Russian rocket fired from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It will use the same method to launch the Trailblazer.

The first commercial moon mission, paid for by corporate sponsorships and advertising, had been scheduled for 2001 but was delayed.

The attempted commercialisation of space travel comes after Bush earlier this month announced new US plans to resume manned missions to the moon as well as an attempt to send a manned mission to Mars.