With this early morning’s successful launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to make the first private space flight delivery to the International Space Station to demonstrate the Dragon capsule, but there was a second container in the second stage – a Celestis canister which contained the ashes of 308 individuals, including Star Trek actor James Doohan and Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper.
This is the third time the ashes of Doohan and Cooper have been launched towards space. The first time was a suborbital flight in 2007, and then SpaceX attempted in 2008 to reach orbit aboard a Falcon 1, but it failed after launch.
The ashes expect to remain in orbit about a year before being incinerated during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
When the third SpaceX Falcon 1 launch vehicle failed to achieve orbit (due to failure of the second stage to separate from the first) it did so with the ashes of 208 people on board, including actor James Doohan (Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery “Scotty” Scott on Star Trek, as if I need to tell you) and former astronaut Gordon Cooper. I haven’t seen much data to know whether the rocket at least achieved “outer space” before it was (presumably) destroyed. It also had 3 satellites on board. Despite yet another failure (the Falcon 1 is 0-for-3), SpaceX founder Elon Musk vows to continue, with plans for the much bigger Falcon 9 pressing forward.