The Dragon has breathed fire – and James Doohan’s ashes are in orbit. Yes, at long last and after a last-second scuttling over the weekend, the SpaceX Falcon 9 blasted off at 3:44 a.m. this morning from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket, owned/funded by the privately held company Space Exploration Technologies, a/k/a SpaceX, is headed toward the International Space Station, carrying 1,000-plus pounds of supplies for the station’s crew, as well as the ashes of more than 300 people, among them Doohan, Star Trek’s beloved Scotty, who passed away in 2005, and Mercury program astronaut Gordon Cooper.
“Feels like a giant weight just came off my back," tweeted SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk. He posted that tweet once Dragon deployed its solar panels, which, according to the Reuters news service, is the first of several major milestones that must be met before the spacecraft is cleared to dock at the station. If all goes as planned, that will occur on Friday. This mission is actually the last test flight for SpaceX under NASA's COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services) initiative, which finances the development of private vehicles that can launch cargo to the ISS.
Doohan’s ashes – which also were launched to space in 2008 as part of an unsuccessful mission -- were part of a secondary payload included on the second stage of the rocket, not on the Dragon itself. That payload separated from the capsule at the 9-minute, 49-second mark and is now orbiting, on its own, above the Earth. It’s expected to stay in orbit for approximately a year before descending back to Earth and disintegrating during re-entry.
Wende Doohan, James Doohan's widow, was on hand for the launch with the couple’s daughter, Sarah, now 12. Doohan posted a photo on Twitter and tweeted the following comment early today. “Sarah and I enjoyed watching a beautiful rocket launch this morning - certainly a first for her.” Also, on May 18, Doohan tweeted the attached photo of Sarah at Cape Canaveral with a caption that read “Following Daddy’s footsteps?”
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