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Friday
May182012

SpaceX Launch: Falcon Rocket to Carry 308 Cremated Remains

File photo. Stockbyte/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- When SpaceX launches its Falcon 9 rocket it will secretly be carrying celebrities.

Actor James Doohan, who played Scotty on the original Star Trek series, died in 2005. His ashes will be on board this mission -- as will those of Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper and 306 other people. If you have the money, Celestis, a space services company, will send your loved one's ashes up to orbit Earth.

Sound familiar? This is the second time around for Celestis and Space X; the companies tried to launch Doohan and Cooper and 206 others back in August 2008. When SpaceX launched the remains on its Falcon1 rocket, the rocket never made it to space. When the rocket failed to get to orbit, neither did the cremated remains, or, for that matter, some small satellites sent by NASA and the Department of Defense.

The satellites were lost, but Celestis has a performance guarantee, which means it holds some ashes back just in case something goes wrong.

The Falcon 9 is currently counting down to a launch on Saturday morning at 4:55 a.m. EDT.

SpaceX is a private company under contract to NASA to take cargo to the orbiting outpost, and Saturday's planned launch is a test to prove to NASA that it can fulfill its performance promises. The space agency has spent just under $300 million to fund SpaceX under COTS, the Commercial Orbital Transportation System.

SpaceX picked up the early development costs for its Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule, hoping eventually to score a $1.6 billion dollar contract for regular cargo runs to the space station. One day, it says, it hopes to carry astronauts.

But SpaceX is in business to make money, and if they can pick up cargo on the side, it makes sense financially. The ashes of 308 souls add up to about $1 million-- though 208 of them are make-goods from the previous failed mission.

So in addition to the 1,014 pounds of food and supplies headed to the six astronauts on the space station, there are the spirits of 308 people.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio