ALBUQUERQUE – Beam me up, indeed!
James Doohan, the actor who played chief engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott on the original "Star Trek" TV series, will have a few grams of his ashes launched 70 miles into space this fall from southern New Mexico.
Houston-based Space Services, Inc., plans also to have the ashes of 100 others aboard the "memorial spaceflight" Oct. 21 -- among them Gordon Cooper, one of the Mercury astronauts who were America's first space travelers during the 1960s.
Doohan, who died at his Redmond, Wash., home last July at age 85, told relatives he wanted his ashes blasted into outer space, as was done for "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry.
Doohan's widow, Wende Doohan, said her husband would have wanted such a send-off.
"If the privatization of space was available when he was alive, he would have been first in line with a window-seat ticket," Doohan told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday. "It's a way to honor something he would have loved to have done."
The 15-minute suborbital flight is scheduled to launch from the southern New Mexico site -- future home of Spaceport America, which state officials hope will one day be a hub for space tourism.
"So far on that flight we have about 100 customers. But if I gave you a good guess, I'd expect it will be well over 100," Space Services spokeswoman Susan Schonfeld said Tuesday "Everybody wants to be on the same rocket as James Doohan. He was so beloved."
The payload will be carried about 70 miles up before returning. Parachutes will then deploy to bring the ashes back to earth. Customers pay between $495 and $1,495 to place remains of loved ones into an aluminum capsule and send them up.
The ashes of Doohan and Cooper had been scheduled for a launch in California this spring, but Schonfeld said a delay involving another rocket pushed back the company's schedule.
Another rocket carrying more of Doohan's ashes is slated for an orbital launch in December or January. Such flights deliver payloads to orbit, meaning the remains can be aloft for days, weeks or even years before falling back to earth and burning up in the atmosphere.
"When people go out and look at stars at night, there is such a deep calling, a deep fascination, with space," Schonfeld said. "Unfortunately, not many people can get there during a lifetime. This is a way of fulfilling their dreams."