Star Trek creator sent into orbit for first deep space burial
Nearly 200 separate remains, including those of the late Star Trek creator, his wife, and four other series cast members, will be part of an inaugural deep space mission to permanently orbit the Sun as their final resting place.
Celestis, a company that has been promoting space burial service since 1994, will launch the first-of-its-kind memorial spaceflight to take place in nearly 30 years.
It marks a new twist in space burials for the non-traditional Houston, Texas-based company.
"It's going to be the first and only repository of our civilization out in the universe…330 million kilometers out into space,” said Celestis President Colby Youngblood.
“No one's done that before,” he said.
Celestis already took part in NASA’s successful mission to send the cremated ashes of legendary scientist Dr. Eugene Shoemaker to the moon back in 1998 and has completed dozens of round-trip space flights since.
During the Voyager Memorial Spaceflight Mission, the company plans to send 196 capsules of cremated remains of people who have passed away, as well as some DNA of people who are still living.
The flight, set to launch sometime in 2024, will carry the ashes or DNA of notable individuals such as sci-fi legend and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who passed in 1991, and his wife of nearly 22 years, Majel Barrett Roddenberry.
DNA of their son, Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry, now 49 years old, will also be flown into deep space, according to the company.
Majel Roddenberry, who passed in 2008 and often referred to by the media as the first "The First Lady of 'Trek," was well known for her own reoccurring role on the original Star Trek series as Nurse Christine Chapel, among other Star Trek characters she played over the years.
Majel also lent her unique sound to the franchise as the voice of the USS Enterprise's computer interface in both the series and several Star Trek movies.
Star Trek cast members also making their final trip include James Doohan (DECD 2005), who played the beloved character "Scotty," Nichelle Nichol (DECD 2022), known as the USS Enterprise crew member Lt. Uhura, and DeForest Kelley (DECD 1999), the starship's Dr. Leanord McCoy. aka "Bones."
Instead of getting "beamed" into space, the personal flight capsules will be catapulted into the universe by way of an explosive rocket launch to take place during a three-day memorial event at Florida's Cape Canaveral, the cradle of the American space program.
“We've got a hair follicle from George Washington, President Dwight Eisenhower, and President John F Kennedy are all on board that flight as well,” Youngblood said.
The rocket is aptly named the Vulcan Centaur.
Other notables making the journey in the afterlife include NASA’s first woman astrogeologist Mareta West and astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, Jr.; Masaru Tomita, two-time, all-star Japanese professional baseball player; and battlefield hero, bronze star, and Purple Heart recipient SSGT John James Cleaver.
The Celestis’ own Enterprise Flight will travel into deep space, beyond the Earth-Moon system, and past the James Webb telescope, to orbit around the Sun indefinitely.
Once the rocket makes it to its interplanetary destination, the most distant permanent human repository outpost will eventually be known as the Enterprise Station.
The company also provides a real-time tracking tool for family and friends to keep tabs on their loved ones while their remains travel through deep space.
One couple from Arizona, who are also sending their DNA on the inaugural Voyager mission, called it “the ultimate road trip” and said they liked the idea of being “the furthest human genome from the planet."
"We all want to be immortal in some way, and this was an opportunity for us to be able to do something that no one else has done, to go where no one else has gone before,” the couple said.
The launch vehicle for the Voyager mission is being provided by the spacecraft engineering company United Launch Alliance.
Some may say the Celestis Enterprise Flight will not be the first deep space burial to take place in the 21st century, but it will be the first to permanently stay in orbit around the Sun.
The ashes of late American Astronomer Clyde Tombaugh (DECD.1997) – known for his discovery of Pluto in 1930 – were sent hurtling into the universe aboard NASA's New Horizons space probe in 2006.
The aluminum capsule containing Tombaugh’s remains were tracked passing Pluto’s orbit in 2015, and are still traveling through the galaxy, billions of miles from Earth, far, far away.
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