Seven years after his death at age 85, James Doohan is reaching the final frontier at last. The Star Trek actor’s cremated remains, along with those of Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper and 306 other people, soared into orbit aboard the SpaceX rocket in the early hours of May 22.
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Doohan, who played engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott on the small and silver screen, is (or was) a client of Celestis, a company that specializes in sending human remains on one last voyage beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
Celestis’ prices for their unique services vary. According to its website, a suborbital flight with a return to Earth starts at $995, Earth orbit is just under $3,000, a trip to the Moon costs close to $10,000, and a deep space launch will run almost $13,000. That’s a bargain compared to the services of Virgin Galactic, which hopes to soon transport the living into space. Tickets aboard the Virgin Galactic shuttle cost $200,000 and require a $20,000 deposit, according to the official company website.
What do you get for your money? Celestis Memorial Spaceflights place a symbolic portion of cremated remains on the rockets, wisely keeping some back on Earth just in case something goes wrong. When SpaceX’s first-of-its-kind commercial rocket lifted off this morning, according to ABC News, it held the ashes in a canister in the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket. That rocket separated from the main capsule nine minutes into the flight. It will now orbit the Earth for up to a year before re-entering the atmosphere and burning up. (Celestia also offers missions into space that return the cremated remains safely to Earth.)
NASA’s Alan Lindenmoyer, who oversees the agency’s relationship with SpaceX, assured ABC News that the sad celestial cargo passed all of NASA’s safety requirements. “We had to make sure it would not interfere in any way with our mission objectives before we allowed it go into the rocket,” he said. For SpaceX, working with Celestia is a profitable enterprise, well worth the cost of ensuring the flight is up to NASA’s safety requirements. The price of the ride for the ashes of the 308 passengers adds up to almost $1 million, according to ABC News. For the loved ones of the deceased passengers, however, the satisfaction of a final wish fulfilled can be priceless.