[[T R I B U T E S]] * How appropriate is this? The “cremains” of actor James Doohan, who played chief engineer Montgomery Scott on the original Star Trek TV series, and who died in July, will be launched into space in early December. According to the official Star Trek Web site, “it was Doohan’s wish that a portion of his cremated remains [7 grams in total] be shot into space, in similar fashion to [Star Trek creator] Gene Roddenberry in 1997. The ‘Memorial Spaceflight’ service is conducted by Space Services Inc. (SSI), based in Houston, Texas, and the flight containing Doohan’s ashes has been cleared for a launch window of December 6-12. It will take place at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, California (on the coast about two hours north of Los Angeles).”
Reuters reports that Doohan’s vestiges will accompany the ashes of more than 120 others, “including those of an unidentified astronaut and Mareta West, the astrogeologist who determined the site for the first spacecraft landing on the moon.” The actor’s cremains, adds Reuters, “will be packed into a special tube that is ejected from the rocket and expected to orbit Earth for about 50 to 200 years before plunging into the planet’s atmosphere and burning up.” But, apparently, there’s no guarantee on that last point. As SSI spokeswoman Susan Schonfeld explains, Roddenberry’s remains fell back to Earth in 2002, a mere five years after they left.
What I hadn’t realized until now is just how common (though still expensive) “space burial” has become over the last decade. Evidently, “symbolic” samples of more than 150 people have preceded Doohan’s. It’s no longer where no man has gone before.
READ MORE: “Space Ashes Recovered in N.M. Mountains” (AP).