In brief: Fans of the original Star Trek’s most lovable character, Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott, will be happy to learn that the ashes of the Canadian actor who portrayed him, the late James Doohan, have been on the International Space Station for 12 years. And it’s all thanks to game developer Richard Garriott, the man behind the Ultima series.
When he passed away at the age of 85 in 2005, Doohan’s family hoped NASA would fufil a dying wish that his ashes be sent to the ISS. The request was refused, but the story didn’t end there, according to a report in The Times.
Doohan’s son Chris turned to Richard “Lord British” Garriott for help. The game developer was one of the first “space tourists” to travel to the ISS back in October 2008, a 12-day mission that cost him $30 million. While quarantined in Kazakhstan, Garriott told Chris Doohan that he would find a way to smuggle his father’s ashes on board.
After the ashes were mailed to Garriott, he laminated them into three photos of Doohan and smuggled them into his flight data file. One was given to Chris, and another ended up in space via an airlock. But the third was hidden in the ISS’s Columbus module—check out the picture below.
“It was completely clandestine,” Garriott told the Times. “His family were very pleased that the ashes made it up there but we were all disappointed we didn’t get to talk about it publicly for so long. Now enough time has passed that we can.”
Doohan’s ashes almost made it into space on board SpaceX’s Falcon 1 in 2008, but the rocket failed and never made it into orbit.
In 2012, the ashes of Doohan and 307 other people were blasted into space inside the SpaceX Falcon 9, part of a memorial spaceflight service.
According to the Times, Doohan has now traveled nearly 1.7 billion miles through space, orbiting Earth more than 70,000 times. A feat that would have made Scotty proud.