Ashes of Star Trek's 'Scotty' Ride Private Rocket Into Space

May 16, 2013 – 07:17 am

he Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on May 22, 2012.SpaceX's first space station-bound Dragon spacecraft, flying atop a Falcon 9 rocket, launches behind a high fidelity mockup of the space shuttle, NASA's previous means of delivering cargo to International Space Station. Liftoff occurred on May 22, 2012 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Burial in space

Celestis charges $2, 995 to launch 1 gram of a person's ashes to Earth orbit. Deep space launches to the solar system start at $12, 500, while suborbital flights that return to Earth begin at $995.

The human remains payload was not officially announced by SpaceX before today, although news reports publicized the inclusion of the ashes onboard Falcon 9.

"So much for our 'secret' launch, " Charles Chafer, CEO of Celestis' parent company, Space Services Inc., wrote on his Facebook page Sunday (May 20). However, the payload was apparently secret enough to fool SpaceX founder and chief designer Elon Musk.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches over space shuttle mockup. "If they were onboard I didn't actually know that, " Musk said after the liftoff. "I was focused on other things."

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launches the unmanned Dragon capsule into orbit on May 22, 2012.
Credit: SpaceX

Space memorials

This isn't the first launch for Celestis.

Ashes from "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry and his wife Majel Barrett Roddenberry, as well as many others, have been booked on flights by Celestis. The ashes are packed into special capsules and added as payloads on orbital and suborbital rockets.

In fact, the company tried to launch Doohan and Cooper's ashes on an earlier SpaceX flight, but the smaller Falcon 1 rocket carrying them in August 2008 failed to reach space. The company is trying again now as part of its guarantee to send another sample of a person's ashes if a rocket fails to launch the first time.

Today's SpaceX flight was the company's "largest launch event ever, " according to Chafer's Facebook page.

Dragon launched Tuesday after an earlier attempt at liftoff was called off at the last second due to an engine valve problem. The issue was fixed and the vehicle had a smooth blastoff into the predawn skies here on the second try.

The Dragon capsule will become the first private spacecraft to rendezvous and berth at the International Space Station when it arrives at the orbiting lab later this week. The mission is the final test flight for SpaceX under NASA's COTS program (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services), which has funded the development of private vehicles capable of delivering cargo to the orbiting laboratory.

You can follow assistant managing editor Clara Moskowitz on Twitter @ClaraMoskowitz Facebook


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