James 'Scotty' Doohan's ashes may have been smuggled aboard the ISS

The "Star Trek" actor made the posthumous trip thanks to private astronaut Richard Garriott.

·2 min read
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With his (fake) Scottish lilt, James Doohan’s “Scotty” is one of the most quoted characters from Star Trek. It now appears that the Canadian actor got in one last word, as his dying wish to have his ashes aboard the International Space Station may have been clandestinely fulfilled, according to a report in the London Times.

Doohan’s ashes almost made it into orbit in 2008 aboard the third flight ever of a SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket, but it failed to reach orbit. NASA subsequently denied a request by Doohan’s family to bring his ashes aboard the ISS, but they didn’t give up. Doohan’s Son Chris reportedly asked game developer Richard Garriott — one of the first private “space tourists” to travel to the space station — if he could bring his father’s ashes with him.

Garriott paid $30 million to fly to the ISS in October 2008, during a period when a company called Space Adventures was selling tickets to private citizens. He was already in quarantine in Kazakhstan, but told the younger Doohan that if he could mail him the ashes, he’d get them aboard. After they arrived, he laminated the ashes into three photos of Doohan and smuggled them into his flight data file, Garriott told the Times.

One he gave to Chris Doohan and another has long since burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere after he let it float into space from an airlock. However, Garriott cached the third under the floor of the space station’s Columbus module while he was aboard. He backed that up with a photo, along with a video taken aboard the ISS in which he honored Doohan, while failing to mention the ashes.

Garriott told the Times that “enough time has passed” that he could now discuss the story, given that NASA would no doubt have frowned on bringing cremated human remains aboard the ISS. That said, Garriott has talked about the ashes before at least as far back as 2018.