With SpaceX launch, remains of James Doohan (Star Trek's "Scotty") finally rest in peace, in space

The late actor James Doohan, best known for his role as "Scotty" on the original Star Trek series, left instructions in his will that he wished to be buried in space. His family worked hard to fulfill that wish, and made arrangements with Celestis, Inc., a subdivision of the Houston-based company Space Services that offers "post-cremation memorial spaceflights."

Those remains became part of the payload for a 2008 SpaceX Falcon 1 launch attempt that didn't reach orbit because of technical problems. Each failed attempt was newly agonizing for family members, prolonging their grief and lack of closure.

But today, seven years after "Scotty's" death, SpaceX successfully launched his ashes into space. From the startrek.com website today:

Doohan’s ashes – which also were launched to space in 2008 as part of an unsuccessful mission -- were part of a secondary payload included on the second stage of the rocket, not on the Dragon itself. That payload separated from the capsule at the 9-minute, 49-second mark and is now orbiting, on its own, above the Earth. It’s expected to stay in orbit for approximately a year before descending back to Earth and disintegrating during re-entry.

Wende Doohan, James Doohan's widow, was on hand for the launch with the couple’s daughter, Sarah, now 12. Doohan posted a photo on Twitter and tweeted the following comment early today. “Sarah and I enjoyed watching a beautiful rocket launch this morning - certainly a first for her.” Also, on May 18, Doohan tweeted the attached photo of Sarah at Cape Canaveral with a caption that read “Following Daddy’s footsteps?”

In 2008, just after that last unsuccessful attempt, we shared on Boing Boing a personal account of what the process felt like for Doohan's family. It was written by Ehrich Blackhound, one of Doohan's seven children. Here it is again, below.

Rest in peace, in space, Mr. Doohan. And on behalf of all of us at Boing Boing, our best to the whole family.


My father loved engineering. Anything he could do to visit NASA, an aircraft carrier, a submarine, he'd do it. There was no end to the enjoyment he received when people would come up to him and say, "I'm an engineer because of you." So when a company in Texas offered to launch his remains into orbit, we could only accept.

It's been just over 3 years since my dad, James Doohan, passed on. In that time, there have been many memorials, the most recent of which to commemorate Linlithgow, Scotland, as the future birthplace of Scotty. But his launch into space was the most publicized, and it was to be the most significant.

There have been many attempts to send my father on his way. On Saturday, the latest launch attempt by SpaceX, with a portion of my father's remains aboard, failed to achieve orbit. While there are many complicated reasons why this is a disappointment, mine is simple: I'd like to finish saying goodbye.

Every launch attempt is like reliving his funeral. There’s a lot of pomp and ceremony, and a retelling of his deeds in life. But at the end of these funerals, something goes awry, the body doesn't get buried, and you know you're going to have to come back to do it over again.

I'm not laying blame on anyone for the delays. It's difficult, living on the cusp of technology. Where most of us lament the premature obsolescence of our cell phones, there are those few of us who've pinned the memories of our family members on a rocket, hoping it will touch the sky.

My dad believed in human ingenuity, and he believed in mankind's destiny beyond the exosphere. That it would take several attempts in these early stages to successfully achieve orbit would not have phased him. I can accept this, because of who he was, and because he knew it was all a part of progress.

For those reasons, I know that his spirit will persevere, and others will keep those launch attempts coming. The act of sending a loved one's remains into space will someday be commonplace, even if we have to book a space flight ourselves to make it happen. That's the kind of progress my father believed in.

But I'm not sure I can hang on until then. Grieving can't wait for the pace of progress, and I have to say goodbye now. So when news of the next launch rolls around, please don't ask me about it; I won't be paying attention.

If my father has anything to do with it, though, I'm sure that ship will get where it's going.

-- Ehrich Blackhound, 2008


  1. I’m glad that “Scotty’s” ashes are finally en’orbited. I guess that was the surprise cargo.

    (And, um, with all respect to the family, I’m so totally going to call my next D&D warrior “Ehrich Blackhound.”)

  2. I have a reserve set aside in my Will to place my ashes on the moon, or into the sun.  Will $100,000 be enough?  Depends on how long I live I suppose.  In any case, the money will be an excuse to help finance our race in getting off this planet, and that is the worthwhile goal.

  3. As you were, Mr. Scott. As you were.  

    ::plays “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes::

  4. Here’s the lovely, key moment of that Next Generation episode, when Data gave Scotty a bottle of alien Scotch, then it was off to the holodeck and a facsimile of the original Enterprise bridge.

    1. I watched all of TOS when I was a kid, reruns on the SciFi channel (late 90’s), and I’ve seen all the movies of course (my favorite moment from the movies will always be Scotty trying to interface with the computer in Star Trek IV). 

      I just started watching TNG for the first time a couple months ago. I believe you and I have discussed this on BB recently, you’ve been watching it too right? Anyway, I got up to ‘Relics’ a couple weeks ago. It brought a tear to my eye when he walked onto the original bridge with those silly computer sounds :)

      Besides what we see from his character (which I think comes largely from his own personality) everything I’ve heard about Doohan says he was a great guy. I’m very pleased that he finally made it into space.

      1. I believe you and I have discussed this on BB recently, you’ve been watching it too right?

        We talked about it here a few months ago, I believe.  And I was there, in front of the TV, when they aired the pilot episode!  So I’ve been watching TNG here and there for about twenty five years.

        Some episode plots are very iffy, Wesley’s love powering the Enterprise clear across the Universe in an instant, for example.  Some are positively excellent, “Cause And Effect” and “Timescape” come to mind immediately.  Anyway, the plot of “Relics” gets a bit silly at the end, but Scotty and Picard sharing a stiff drink is worth the price of admission, with genuine sentiment as opposed to being sentimental (in the same sense that ‘moral’ is very different to ‘moralistic’).

        So you’re cramming your way through TNG?  That’s what I need to do with “Mad Men” now, but with a two year old son, when I have the time I’m lacking in concentration and get all fidgety, so for the time being I’m going for lighter fare, such as “Yard Crashers” and shit!

        1. Heh, I agree some of the plots are iffy and there are a couple of real clunkers, but also a few which are unquestionably at the top of my list of favorite episodes of any TV show I’ve seen (Darmok and The Offspring being the ones that come to mind for me, Cause and Effect definitely but I haven’t gotten to Timescape yet ;)

          Relics was ridiculous in its entirety, but I’m very glad they did it (and I’m glad that Bones had his bit in the pilot episode as well). Kirk got his TNG crossover bit in a movie, Bones was in the TNG pilot, and Spock was in several TNG episodes. Scotty was always the unsung hero though, and Relics was a very sweet (well, bittersweet) and fitting closure for his character. And I know exactly what you mean about the sentiment in that scene on the bridge – and indeed, “Scotty and Picard sharing a stiff drink” – doesn’t get much better than that in Star Trek :)

          I have indeed been cramming my way through but when I got up to the point where Deep Space Nine starts I slowed down. I wanted to watch both shows in the order that they originally aired since there’s some cross-over, but I find myself not wanting to bother watching DS9. Needed to take a break anyway and have been watching other stuff (I watched all of Game of Thrones last week for example).

          Mad Men is worth it though. I started watching that near the end of Season 2 and have been keeping up with it; it’s the only current show I like enough to keep up with (although there’s Game of Thrones now too).

  5. “Each failed attempt was newly agonizing for family members, prolonging their grief and lack of closure.”

    “closure” has got to be one of the most preposterous tropes in pop writing.

    I’ve never been to a burial and thought afterward “wow, I feel so much better now that things are… closed!”

    1. That you think “closure” is nothing more than a popular trope says a great deal about the insularity of your thought and the narrowness of your experience. As a useful exercise, you might attempt to imagine yourself into a situation in which closure would be a necessary and palliative transition, if for no other reason than to improve your poker game.

  6. I was a Trek geek way back in the day and started going to conventions in NYC at 14, somewhere in the mid-late 70’s.  I went to every con for years, and got to know James Doohan as well as any fan could hope.  He would call to me when I entered the room, with a cheery “Maria!”, both embarrassing me and sending me swooning a bit.

    Fast forward twenty years, and I went to my first convention since my teens.  The “fab four” of ST:TOS (Doohan, Nichols, Takei, and Koenig) were taking photos with fans for $10 a pop and giving the money to charity. 

    Jimmy was already ill at the time, and had a bit of trouble talking.  But he took my hand, stared at me for a few moments, lit up, and said “It’s been years.  How are you doing, darling?!”

    And I was 14 again, blushing, thrilled, and oh so much at home.

    1. I went to a convention in the mid 90s. I have to admit that when he spoke, he was more than a bit rambley.

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