Science News

Scotty beamed up in final space voyage

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, New Mexico (Reuters) - Actor James Doohan, who played the starship Enterprise’s chief engineer Scotty on “Star Trek,” finally made it to space on Saturday as a rocket with some of his ashes was launched in New Mexico.

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Remains of the Canadian-born actor, who died two years ago at the age of 85, hurtled to the edge of space aboard a telephone pole-size rocket that blasted off from a desert launching grounds near Truth or Consequences.

Doohan inspired the legendary catch phrase “Beam me up, Scotty” -- even though it was never actually uttered on the popular television show.

Hundreds of spectators clapped, cheered and cried as his ashes roared aloft along with the remains of some 200 other people, including astronaut Gordon Cooper, who first went into space in 1963. Cooper died in 2004 at age 77.

“It was great, it was fun and we want to go again,” said Doohan’s widow, Wende Doohan, who pressed the launch button with Cooper’s widow, Susan Cooper.

The flight was arranged by Houston-based company Space Services Inc. The company charges $495 (248 pounds) to send a portion of a person’s ashes into suborbital space.

The firm had originally planned to blast Doohan’s remains into space two years ago. But the flight was delayed by tests, then by a misfire during a practice launch last year.

During a 15-minute flight, the rocket separated into two parts and returned to Earth on parachutes with the capsules holding the remains. The maximum height reached was 384,000 feet or 72 miles.

Capsules containing the ashes are retrieved, mounted on plaques and given back to relatives.

In 1997, the company blasted the remains of “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry into space.

Crystal Warren saw the remains of her space enthusiast brother-in-law take flight. “He’s going home. He’s there now. He has wanted to be up there forever,” said Warren.

The brief flight by the Spaceloft XL rocket was the first commercial launch from Spaceport America, the world’s first commercial spaceport, a $225 million project developed with support from the New Mexico state government.

Tycoon Richard Branson said last year he would use the site as a base for his space tours firm, Virgin Galactic, which plans to blast tourists into space by the end of the decade.