DeForest Kelley’s DNA Heading to the Final Frontier

DeForest Kelley

Paramount Pictures DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy in a scene from "Star Trek."

DeForest Kelley is set to join several of his fellow “Star Trek” legends out on the Final Frontier. Represented by his DNA, Kelley — who originated the role of Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy on “Star Trek: The Original Series” and died in 1999 — will be sent to deep space along with the ashes of Nichelle Nichols, “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry and his wife, “The First Lady of Star Trek,” Majel Barrett Roddenberry, James Doohan, and visual effects legend Douglas Trumbull, among others.

According to Celestis, Inc., which specializes in memorial spaceflights, Kelley’s DNA and the ashes of the other “Trek” figures will be launched later this year on board United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket as part of what they’re calling an “Enterprise Flight.” Kelley’s DNA was extracted from a strand of his hair.

“I donated the lock of hair so De could join his shipmates on their eternal journey into interstellar space,” Kris M. Smith, a longtime friend of Kelley and his wife, Carolyn, who also served as their personal assistant in the couple’s later years, said in a statement. “The mission just didn’t feel complete without Dr. McCoy aboard. I think De would have loved to ‘go hopping galaxies’ again with his cast and crew mates. So, ‘Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning!'”


Kelley’s DNA Was Extracted from a Strand of His Hair 

Kris Smith

Kris SmithKris M. Smith holds an envelope containing DeForest Kelley’s DNA.

“It’s particularly notable that we announce DeForest Kelley’s addition to our Enterprise Flight on Star Trek Day,” Charles M. Chafer, co-founder & CEO of Celestis, Inc., said in a statement. “No mission to deep space would be complete without a ship’s doctor.”

The Enterprise Flight (celestis.com/launch-schedule/enterprise-flight) will travel between 150 million to 300 million kilometers into deep space, well beyond the Earth-Moon system to interplanetary space, the press release notes. The mission will launch more than 150 flight capsules containing cremated remains (ashes), messages of greetings, and DNA samples from people worldwide on an endless journey in interplanetary space. Vulcan will first put Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander on a trajectory for its rendezvous with the Moon. The Centaur upper stage will then continue into deep space, entering an orbit around the Sun, becoming humanity’s furthermost reaching outpost, which will then be renamed Enterprise Station.

Fans worldwide can participate in this mission for free by submitting their names at enterprise-flight.com/mindfile/. The general public can also become more involved in this mission and launch their drawings, images, and messages in the form of a Celestis Mindfile.


Kelley’s DNA Will Join the Ashes of Nichelle Nichols, Gene Roddenberry & Others on the Enterprise Flight 

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Kelley’s biography on the official “Star Trek” website reads as follows: “Like the character of Dr. Leonard McCoy he played, Jackson DeForest Kelley was born in Georgia, Atlanta, to be specific, the son of a Baptist minister. Following his discharge from the U.S. Army Air Force at the end of World War II, Kelley chose to pursue a career in acting, and made his way to Los Angeles. Under contract to Paramount Pictures, he began appearing in motion pictures and television series, most often Westerns and nearly always playing the bad guy. That villainous persona couldn’t have been farther from his own, and he worried for a time that he would be typecast that way forever. Ironically, while the role of Dr. McCoy saved him from that particular fate, it typecast him in an entirely different way — but one that he reportedly never regretted.

“Kelley met his future wife, actress Carolyn Dowling, when they both appeared in a theatrical production for the Long Beach Theatre Group. They were married in 1945 and were virtually inseparable for the next 53 years. Kelley chose to relax into retirement following the cancellation of ‘Star Trek.’ He reprised his role as McCoy for ‘The Animated Series’ and appeared in six ‘Star Trek’ motion pictures, and played McCoy at 137 as an aged retired admiral on inspection duty at the launch of ‘The Next Generation.’ His beloved stanza poem ‘The Big Bird’s Dream’ and its sequel, using creator Gene Roddenberry’s nickname, told in verse the story of his unlikely ‘Star Trek’ castmates and their experience, and continued it through the movies. But beyond that, convention appearances and occasional film roles and television guest stints, Kelley was content to spend most of his time at home with his wife, garden, and their infamous pet Myrtle the Turtle. He died of stomach cancer on June 11, 1999, at the age of 79.”

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