Saturday, April 28, 2007

James Doohan's ashes reach the Final Frontier

Dozens of Star Trek fans bid farwell today to James Doohan, whose ashes are to be blasted into space on a private rocket.

Doohan, beloved for his role as the USS Enterprise's chief engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, died at the age 85 in 2005, but plans for his posthumous rendezvous with the final frontier have been repeatedly delayed.

However on Saturday a symbolic portion of his ashes will be on board SpaceLoft XL rocket that is scheduled to take off from a private launchpad in the southwestern state of New Mexico.

The launch has been scheduled for between 8:30 am (1430 GMT) and 2:30 pm local time (2030 GMT).

Doohan's ashes will be accompanied by the remains of former US astronaut Gordon Cooper and those of 200 other people.

Doohan's widow Wende said Friday her husband would have been thrilled at the prospect of a "space funeral" following a poignant service at the New Mexico Museum of Space History.

"He would be ecstatic," she said. "He would be the one pressing the button. He totally was so into space."

Afficionados of "Star Trek" were among well-wishers who gathered in this desert city Friday to pay their respects to the Canadian actor, who will forever be associated with the catchphrase "Beam me up, Scotty!"

Will Steinsiek, 55, a former pastor, resplendent in a "Star Trek" costume, said Doohan's character was integral to the series.

"In many ways, when we lost him, we lost the Enterprise," Steinsiek said, referring to the long-running show's famous spaceship. "These funerals are a way to reach a dream, the dream to go into space and back again."

Steinsiek said he had been a life-long fan of the series.

"I caught the second show, and I haven't missed one since. I've been a long-time fan, and passed it to my son," he said.

Joe Latrell, the president of a private rocket company, Beyond Earth Roswell NM, also appeared decked out in full "Star Trek" regalia.

He said the science fiction adventure series had accurately predicted many of today's technological gadgets, and had also offered a portrait of a diverse group working together for the betterment of humanity.

"Star Trek is compelling because it shows people of diverse origins working together and getting along," he told AFP. "Today, we need to make that happen.

"The cell phones, the memory cards of today are almost identical to the devices seen years ago in the series. It inspires the people to create them."

Doohan's posthumous spaceflight will see him follow "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry, whose remains were fired into space by Space Services I (SSI) in 1997, six years after his death.

SSI offers a variety of services for families wishing to shoot the remains of loved ones into space.

Launching a single gram of ashes comes with a 495-dollar price tag, while sending remains into deep space, a service which comes into effect from 2009 will cost up to 12,500 dollars. — AFP