Beam them up: Ashes of 'Star Trek' actor in orbit

May 22, 2012 By SETH BORENSTEIN , AP Science Writer
This combination of photos shows astronaut Gordon Cooper, top left; Bob Shrake, an engineer who designed spaceship control instruments for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, top right; actor James Doohan, bottom left; and capsules from Space Services Inc. These three men who made space their lives are also making space their final resting place. Their ashes - and hundreds of others’ - in capsules from Space Services Inc. were aboard the Falcon 9 rocket that blasted into orbit Tuesday, May 19, 2012 as part of an in-space burial business. (AP Photo/NASA, Shrake Family, Paramount Pictures, Space Services Inc.)

(AP) -- James Doohan, Scotty from "Star Trek," spent his acting career whizzing through the cosmos. Gordon Cooper was one of America's famous Mercury seven astronauts. And Bob Shrake spent his work life anonymously helping send NASA's high-tech spacecraft to other planets.

Now the three men who made space their lives are also making space their final resting place. Their ashes - and those of about 300 others - were aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket that blasted into Tuesday as part of an in-space for-profit burial business.

Shrake was an engineer who designed spaceship control instruments for NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Calif. After he died in 2007, his family decided that space would be a nice place to send some of his ashes so they spent a few thousand dollars to launch them in space with the Texas-based firm Celestis Inc. His daughter, Robin Smith of Grapevine, Texas, got up very early Tuesday to watch the pre-dawn launch, and said it was fitting.

"I thought wow, he was actually up in the sky, in the place where his work is being used," Smith said by telephone.

The ashes were in a special container that was in the second stage of the Falcon rocket that boosted a capsule full of supplies for the . That section of the rocket was jettisoned about 10 minutes after launch. It will remain in orbit for about a year then burn up as it returns to Earth.

You don't have to be in the space business to have your ashes deposited in orbit, but you do have to have nearly $3,000. Some of what Celestis calls "participants" in this flight, which the company called its "new frontier" mission, have no connection to space.

Some people's ashes that flew Tuesday, including those of Doohan and Cooper, were also on a botched 2008 launch that didn't get the remains into orbit and dropped into the Pacific Ocean. This is a makeup flight for them.

Others whose ashes have flown previously include "" creator and his actress-wife Majel Barrett, who was in the series.

Smith said her father - ever the frugal engineer - might have thought this a waste of money, but his family is glad they did it: "Most of his career dealt with outer and orbit and now he's in it."

Explore further: The source of the sky's X-ray glow

More information: List: http://www.celestis.com/memorial/newfrontier/

4 /5 (4 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Commercial spacecraft speeds toward space station

May 22, 2012

(AP) -- Opening a new, entrepreneurial era in spaceflight, a ship built by a billionaire businessman sped toward the International Space Station with a load of groceries and other supplies Tuesday after a ...

US mulls tax break for space 'burials'

Dec 12, 2011

Americans who want to save money on taxes may want to consider rocketing their ashes into space, according to legislation being proposed in Virginia.

What's the big deal about private space launches?

May 22, 2012

(AP) -- The first private spaceship is headed to the International Space Station. Some questions and answers about the cargo mission by Space Exploration Technologies, known as SpaceX:

US space capsule launch set for Wednesday

Dec 07, 2010

A US company has received the go-ahead to launch its first space capsule into orbit Wednesday, in a key test for the future of commercial space flight as NASA looks to end its shuttle program.

Recommended for you

The source of the sky's X-ray glow

16 hours ago

In findings that help astrophysicists understand our corner of the galaxy, an international research team has shown that the soft X-ray glow blanketing the sky comes from both inside and outside the solar system.

End dawns for Europe's space cargo delivery role

Jul 27, 2014

Europe will close an important chapter in its space flight history Tuesday, launching the fifth and final robot ship it had pledged for lifeline deliveries to the International Space Station.

Giant crater in Russia's far north sparks mystery

Jul 26, 2014

A vast crater discovered in a remote region of Siberia known to locals as "the end of the world" is causing a sensation in Russia, with a group of scientists being sent to investigate.

NASA Mars spacecraft prepare for close comet flyby

Jul 26, 2014

NASA is taking steps to protect its Mars orbiters, while preserving opportunities to gather valuable scientific data, as Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring heads toward a close flyby of Mars on Oct. 19.

Bacteria manipulate salt to build shelters to hibernate

Jul 25, 2014

For the first time, Spanish researchers have detected an unknown interaction between microorganisms and salt. When Escherichia coli cells are introduced into a droplet of salt water and is left to dry, b ...

How do we terraform Venus?

Jul 25, 2014

It might be possible to terraform Venus some day, when our technology gets good enough. The challenges for Venus are totally different than for Mars. How will we need to fix Venus?

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Russkiycremepuff
2.3 / 5 (3) May 22, 2012
I have been a great fan of Gordo Cooper after seeing Dennis Quaid portray Gordo in "The Right Stuff". But I think I would prefer to have my remains jettisoned out into the Oort Cloud if that is ever possible. Or into interstellar space. Why should I fall back to earth and pollute mesosphere, but maybe ionosphere would be preferable; to see the aurora from above and be tossed about with electromagnetic field and maybe some solar flares.
Yes, I am the dreamer.
bredmond
not rated yet May 23, 2012
Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet May 23, 2012
SpaceX lost Doohan's ashes in an earlier flight in 2008.

They didn't fly all of the ash.