Star Trek for the Ages

From West U to deep space

A Houston company is gearing up to — no, goddammit, we will not do a "go where no man has gone before" reference.

But from an office in West U, of all places, the planning is proceeding for the ultimate star trek — sending some of the remains of Majel Roddenberry and Scotty Doohan into deep, deep space.

If you're not a Star Trek fan, you may well ask, "Who the hell is Majel Roddenberry?" And if you are a Star Trek fan, you might be asking, "Didn't they send Scotty's ashes up into space — and lose them — a couple of years ago?"

The answers — Roddenberry is the beloved widow of Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, and a sci-fi actress in her own right. And, as Hair Balls learned, don't ever imply that Space Services Inc. ever lost Doohan's ashes.

"We never lost his ashes," Space Services' Susan Schonfeld tells us.

A portion of Doohan's ashes (they never send all the ashes; it's too heavy a payload when you're taking the remains of 200 people up) went into Earth orbit in 2007 and returned as planned. But the capsule landed in a mountainous area in rough weather, so recovery of them was delayed, leading to some "Scotty's Ashes Lost" stories in the media.

"His widow was funny," Schonfeld says. "She said, 'What do they expect? My husband was never a navigator, he was an engineer.'" (Star Trek humor!!)

Roddenberry and Doohan will be among the first ashes that Space Services (also known as Celestis) sends into "deep space." Previous missions have sent ashes up-and-down, like the first Doohan trip, or into Earth's orbit, where they circle anywhere from five to 50 years before burning up on re-entry, or even intothe Moon.

The new Trek flight, scheduled for 2012, will simply launch a capsule out where it will travel away from Earth forever.

Also on board, along with some of the Trek ashes, will be hundreds of other ashes, plus a digitized chip containing the "tens of thousands" of tributes and farewell messages fans can leave on the Celestis Web site.

Previous launches have been from New Mexico, California, Cape Canaveral and Europe.

"It's not just a launch, it's a three-day event," Schonfeld says. "Families come from all over the world and there's tours and briefings. Oh my God, you wouldn't believe it. They come from China, India, the U.S., and there's a real bond created."

In case you're wondering, getting some of your ashes on a "deep space" launch will set you back at least $12,500. — Richard Connelly

The Wind Takes, and the Wind Gives Back

The winds (and resulting storm surge) of Hurricane Ike ravaged Galveston, but it's wind that has helped the Port of Galveston get back into the black for the first time since the storm.

Is that ironic, or is it more like rain on your wedding day? We're not sure. And port CEO Steven Cernak doesn't really care as long as the revenue from moving wind-farm equipment continues to pile up.

"Ironic? We're only moving the products through the port — I mean, maybe I would've done well if I put them vertical in time for the storm," he tells Hair Balls.

But for now he's satisfied just to be the go-to port for importing all the turbines, blades and apparatus involved in putting up wind farms in the U.S.

Gulf Shipper Online says wind power has become an important part of the port's activities, and Cernak agrees.

He says Galveston doesn't have the tax base the Port of Houston does, so it has to hustle more to attract customers.

"We have to be opportunistic," he says. "A couple of years ago, we recognized wind as a niche that wasn't being served and we went after it."

Most of the stuff gets imported from Asia, especially China. Right now it generally goes to Texas wind-farm projects, but Cernak hopes to send stuff all over the Midwest and Canada.

He's also glad that the relevant companies didn't abandon the port in the wake of Ike.

"There was a moment when it was very easy for someone on the sidelines to just decide to go somewhere else," he says. "They stuck with us, and we're very appreciative."

Cernak is about to present the latest revenue numbers to the port's board. He can't give specifics now, but says that the port is now in the black for the first time since Ike. — Richard Connelly

 
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