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Star Trek Ashes: To Deep Space, Via West U

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!!)

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

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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 US 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

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