SpaceX program finally launches James Doohan’s–Scotty’s–ashes into orbit

By » Wed, May 23 2012
James Scotty Doohan 450x560 SpaceX program finally launches James Doohans–Scottys–ashes into orbit

"All right, you lovelies. Hold together." (img by sandrino)

The SpaceX program has demonstrated the abilities of the private sector, combined with some eccentric wealth, can succeed at literally the highest plane of exploration and scientific achievement since the dawn of man. Its Dragon spacecraft has gone into orbit where it will continue to test its maneuvering thrusters until it meets and berths with the International Space Station.

Just under 10 minutes after launch SpaceX announced Dragon successfully reached orbit. A few minutes later, loud cheers washed over SpaceX’s factory floor as Dragon successfully deployed its solar panels.

The Dragon receives power from batteries and the pair of solar arrays. The next big event will be the opening of the Guidance, Navigation and Control Bay door in two hours and 27 minutes after launch. When the door opens, it is the first step toward the rendezvous with the ISS, according to SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell.

“This is a key new feature for this mission, which basically exposes the Proximity Operations Sensors to space so we can see the ISS as we are approaching and allow us to get close enough to berth,” Shotwell explained in a press conference on May 19. “Our star trackers also get a view of space at this time, so this is a very critical operation”

While modern and impressive as this is, the whole ordeal is overshadowed by the completion of James Doohan’s final will and testament, which read that his ashes were to be launched into space. This SpaceX launch will be the third and finally successful attempt at sending Scotty’s remains into orbit.

spacex dragon 1600 450x337 SpaceX program finally launches James Doohans–Scottys–ashes into orbit

SpaceX 2012: Year of the Doohan, er Dragon (img SpaceX)

Before he died in 2005, at the age of 85, he requested that his ashes be taken into space. In 2007 a capsule containing them reached suborbital space for several minutes, but the ashes were lost for three weeks after landing in the New Mexico desert.

The following year SpaceX attempted to send a portion of them into orbit but the rocket exploded, plunged into the Pacific Ocean, and was lost.

Alan Lindenmoyer, who supervises Nasa’s relationship with SpaceX, said the latest attempt to deliver the ashes to orbit would not compromise the main mission to the space station.

Well, at least they got some of him up there. His ashes will remain in space for about a year before their orbit decays and they come back down to earth, most likely disintegrating in the atmosphere.

That does mean that this time 2013 you will likely start breathing in a few molecules of the most famous fictional engineer of all time.

2012 will remain a hallmark in the postmortem legacy of James Doohan–slash–Scotty, as it is also the year that science has introduced a type of transparent aluminum that is commercially viable to produce.

Those of you, um, enthusiastic enough to remember Star Trek IV (Blu-ray) (DVD) (Instant Watch) may recall the scene embedded above.

If not, let me set up the clip: The crew of the Enterprise has gone into the past to retrieve some whales, OK? And take them “back to the future,” to coin a phrase. But Scotty has a problem: He needs stuff to build a giant whale tank on the ship, but he has no goods to trade with, because, you know, in the future they only work to better themselves and nobody but a Ferengi would stoop to carrying money around. So Scotty barters his knowledge of 24th-century materials technology with a 20th-century engineer, who agrees to make him what he needs in exchange.

The 24th-century material in question is “transparent aluminum,” and today I’m here to tell you: That future has arrived. Sort of. Pretty much.

The result is this, ALON:

Which falls into the category of really cool shit. (Not if you’re bullets.)

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