When it comes to television dramas about space, Star Trek set the gold standard. As such, the actors and actresses of the franchise have long been associated with the vast void of darkness beyond the borders of our planet, even though they did most, if not all, their space exploration on a Hollywood set. Now, the remains of one departed cast member are up in the atmosphere, as the story of James Doohan's ashes secretly arriving at the International Space Station has come to light.
Doohan, who played Montgomery "Scotty" Scott on the original Star Trek, died in 2005. In the years since, his family has made efforts to try and get his ashes into space, and finally managed to do so with the help of a game developer. The news comes from Richard Garriott, who visited the International Space Station as a "private astronaut," as part of a 2008 space tourism program he took part in. Garriott paid $30 million for the adventure, according to the London Times, and while in quarantine for the excursion, was contacted by James Doohan's son, Chris.
Doohan's son explained the actor's dying wish was to have his ashes flown to space, and asked if there was any way Richard Garriott could be of assistance. Garriott agreed, but because he was in quarantine for the space flight, was unable to receive the ashes in person. Perhaps not willing to let the whole thing fall apart because of that, Chris Doohan mailed Garriott his father's ashes so that they had a shot at making the space journey happen.
From there, Garriott made three laminated cards containing the ashes and took them into space in secret to avoid them being confiscated. One has likely burned up in the Earth's atmosphere after it was released from an airlock, and the other was placed underneath the floor of the Columbus module on board. The third was returned to Chris Doohan, which he displayed on Twitter to help back up the claims made by Richard Garriott.
Chris Doohan had tried for a long time to get his father James Doohan's ashes into space and seemed to succeed when some ashes were allowed on the SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket, but it failed to reach orbit. Doohan then approached NASA to see if he could try that avenue, but the space agency denied his request. NASA's rejection may seem cruel (especially given that the agency is working with living actor Tom Cruise) but considering the possibility of loose ashes potentially being released and causing issues on the ship, the denial is understandable.
Richard Garriott decided to break his silence about the story now, mainly because he believed enough time has passed that he won't get in trouble for it. Had the ISS undergone some major catastrophe not long after his visit concluded, who knows if this story would've seen the light of day. Of course, that didn't happen, and now Star Trek fans can take solace in knowing that one of the actors who made the original series beloved by many received his dying wish of having a part of himself in space.
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