One Star Trek actor had dreamed of making it to the ISS one day. Sadly, he died before that dream could be fulfilled. But some dreams don’t stop after death. This actor’s family and fans were committed to fulfilling this last wish. Here’s how this smuggling plot unfolded…
‘Star Trek’ Actor James Doohan’s Ashes Were Hidden on the ISS
— Chris Doohan (@ChrisDoohan) December 26, 2020
Actor Chris Doohan is one of James Doohan’s sons, and revealed the whole hidden saga via his Twitter account.
The “completely clandestine” caper was co-masterminded by Richard Garriott, a video game entrepreneur. Garriott paid $30 million to enjoy the privilege of being a private citizen on the ISS back in 2008.
It turns out that space is something of a family business for Garriott. His father is American astronaut Owen Garriott.
Chris Doohan and Richard Garriott worked together to pull off this unique plot. The two created a set of three cards, featuring James Doohan’s photograph and laminated with a small amount of cremains. While aboard the ISS in 2008, Garriott hid one of the three cards under a floor, and let a second one float away into space. The third and final card was one Garriott kept, intending to return it to Chris Doohan.
Doohan’s Family Kept the Secret for 12 Years
Yahoo! reports that Doohan’s remains traveled an astonishing 1.7 billion miles through space. Their report clarifies that in terms of total Earth orbits, Doohan’s remains circled the globe over 70,000 times.
It’s also worth noting that Doohan’s family has tried multiple ways to get the actor’s remains into space. CNN reported that a small portion of Doohan’s remains were set to be launched into space with SpaceX’s Falcon 1 rocket back in 2008, but the rocket failed.
A 2012 attempt was more successful, and ultimately sent some of Doohan’s cremated remains into space, along with the remains of hundreds of others. At the launch, Doohan’s widow told CNN, “He would rather have flown when he was alive, of course.”
Smuggling Contraband into Space Is Kind of a Tradition
While Aldrin’s sandwich was an officially sanctioned meal, past NASA astronauts have attempted to bring unapproved food on past missions. Perhaps most infamously, Gemini 3 astronauts were reprimanded by NASA after sneaking a contraband corned beef sandwich aboard their mission. NASA and some members of Congress had concerns that the crumbs from the sandwich could have caused a catastrophic error during the mission, leading to the uneaten treat being dubbed “The $30 million dollar sandwich“.
And as for Cosmonauts? The Daily Mail reports Russian inspectors “regularly” find alcohol that the crew is trying to smuggle into space.
When Smuggling Isn’t Smuggling: Enter the PPK
While sneaking things into space isn’t exactly a new phenomenon, it’s worth calling out that there are legitimate ways to “export” things to space. At least, among NASA astronauts.
The astronauts who fly for NASA take a PPK on their space missons. A PPK, or Personal Preference Kit, is a small bag that the astronauts can use to bring personal items of their choice into orbit. PPK items vary, but are often small and lightweight.
Buzz Aldrin snuck the necessary items aboard Apolo 11 to host the first holy communion on the surface of the moon, and there is a long-running PPK theory (that has never been conclusively proven) that Neil Armstrong made use of a small window of time alone on the surface of the moon to leave something of personal value behind. However, unless someone goes back to the moon and finds the small memento Armstrong allegedly left behind all those decades ago, the theory remains just that– a theory.