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Beam Me Up Scotty!

I have to confess that as a kid growing up in Miami in the ’70s, I feasted on reruns of Star Trek. While not a Trekkie, I was an avid fan of the show and marveled at what I thought was impossible, out-of-this world technology. Little did I know that the unfathomably advanced devices like communicators and tricorders would become commonplace today — and used by children. The only difference, they are called iPhones and iPads.

Today, James Doohan who played Montgomery “Scotty” Scott on Star Trek was beamed up into the final frontier. Not through a transporter, but with the help of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket:

The ashes of the actor James Doohan, who played Scotty on the 1960s television series “Star Trek,” were launched to space this morning (May 22) on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The unmanned Falcon 9 blasted off at 3:44 a.m. EDT (0744 GMT) from here at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, carrying the Dragon capsule filled with cargo bound for the International Space Station. Also packed aboard the rocket was a secondary payload carrying remains from 308 people, including Doohan and Mercury program astronaut Gordon Cooper, according to ABC News and Reuters.

The ashes were flown under an agreement between the spacecraft’s builder, private rocket company SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corp. of Hawthorne, Calif.) and Celestis, a company that books memorial spaceflights to “launch a symbolic portion of your loved one’s ashes into space,” according to its website. “We had a Celestis canister on the second stage, not on Dragon,” SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said at a news conference after the launch. “They’ve actually been a customer of ours since 2005 or 2006.”

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. “If they were onboard I didn’t actually know that,” Musk said after the liftoff. “I was focused on other things.”

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