Remains to be seen

By Phil Plait | May 10, 2007 7:33 pm

“The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.”

Remember I wrote a while back on how James Doohan (Star Trek’s Scotty) had some of his ashes launched on a suborbital rocket into space?

Well, it turns out that the payload is, um, missing. It fell in some difficult to reach terrain, evidently, and the rocket company, UP Aerospace, can’t find it. It’s in dense vegetation, and while they know where it is to within a few hundred meters, they’re having a hard time tracking it down (thought the article linked above implies there is a transmitter on the rocket payload which should make finding it a lot easier). They’ll try again next week, though it’s unclear why they’re waiting that long. The weather there looks pretty clear right now. has an earlier article about this, too. Not so incidentally, Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper’s remains were on the payload, too.


Comments (15)

Links to this Post

  1. Cosmic Log | May 10, 2007
  1. BradC

    So… they blasted the ashes up TOWARD space a little ways…. and then came back down.

    Jeesh. I’d be asking for my money back.

  2. Cameron

    Ouch! That’s gotta hurt!

  3. Christian Burnham

    I think the BA’s got a pun in the oven.

  4. KingNor

    i just don’t see why they couldn’t deposit the ashes in space, and let them disipate in the atmosphere, from that high up there’s no way they could pose any threat as a biohazard.

    or spend that money on charity.

  5. PK

    Ashes do not form a biohazard anywhere, high or low. That’s the whole point of cremation.

  6. bassmanpete

    I’ve heard of talk to ban cremations in some European countries because of the mercury in dental fillings being released into the atmosphere.

  7. Jonathan

    I just know the Klingons are up to this…

  8. Tom

    If you read the LiveScience article, it mentions that high winds forced the team to abandon its search of the mountains until Monday, and that the radio transmissions were bouncing around and foiling a directional search.

  9. Michael H

    “Remains to be seen”
    LOL. It’s worth visiting this site just for the puns.

  10. Irishman

    I was wondering why Astrolink was posting a verbatim copy of your column. Then I figured out you posted it on Astrolink.

    BradC, there was some discussion of this earlier. The relatives who pay for the launch know what they are getting. Some fraction of the ashes make it briefly “into space”. They are then returned to the relative. Other packages (that cost more) put some ashes on a space satellite that orbits for a while doing some other science payload, and still other packages (that cost even more) put some ashes on a probe that goes out into the solar system or to another planet (like Gene Shoemaker).

    As for why, that’s a personal choice. The relatives feel it a tribute to their loved ones. How is that any different than scattering ashes at a favorite spot, or embalming and then sealing in an air-tight crypt?

    KingNor, you’re welcome to tell all your loved ones you’d rather have the money go to charity than to send your ashes into space. It’s not a choice I would make, but I can see how it could be meaningful to those family members, so worthwhile to them.

  11. kingNOR

    Irishman, you’re very right. Actually my real point is just that i dont’ see why the ashes had to be launched up in a tiny capsule only to fall back to earth where some guys pick it up and bring it back.

    If I were to want my ashes in space, i’d want them to stay in space… or at least have the ashes themselves exposed to space. I can see how it would be meaningful to them though.

    It’s just not what i’d want i guess.

  12. Irishman, Astrolinks is actually some sort of news aggregator. It takes other peoples’ blog posts and collects them. A lot of sites do that.

    Tom, the LiveScience article is actually a week old, so I’m not sure if winds are still a problem there or not. But clearly finding this payload is hard for some reason; I can’t imagine the company wants publicity like this!

  13. I think that the capsule with the ashes is waiting for the “Genesis” efecto to take place, so Cpt Kirk woul come to retrieve a much younger version of Scotty.

    That’s gotta be… rrrright…

  14. Irishman

    kingNOR, I share your personal opinion as my own. The intent of this type profile is you get a portion flown in space and then returned to you, with a certificate of authenticity. Then you can proudly display them on the mantle, which many people do anyway. How is displaying space-flown ashes on the mantle any sillier than non-space-flown ashes? True, it might seem more fitting to release them into space, or send them on a probe like Voyager. But you get what you pay for (and what is available).


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