A rocket payload which flew briefly into space with ashes of astronaut Gordon Cooper and Star Trek actor James Doohan was recovered today in the US’s New Mexico mountains.
The payload was found in its designated recovery zone 20 days after Farmington, Connecticut-based UP Aerospace sent it up in a 20ft (6.1m) rocket on April 28.
The rocket, the first to be successfully launched into space from the fledgling Spaceport America in southern New Mexico, made a four-minute sub-orbital flight before drifting back to Earth.
On board were partial ashes from Cooper, Doohan – who played Scotty in Star Trek – and 200 others, including John Meredith Lucas, a writer for the original Star Trek series.
The payload landed in rocky, steep terrain in the San Andres Mountains on White Sands Missile Range, east of the spaceport, and was found by a UP Aerospace crew with help from White Sands.
UP Aerospace co-founder Eric Knight said the payload “landed where we wanted it to be. It was just in difficult terrain”.
“And some days, the weather was not co-operative,” he added.
Doohan’s widow, Wende, said he “was in great company with Gordon and Meredith Lucas”.
“He probably wished he could have stayed” in space, Mrs Doohan said in a telephone interview from her home in Renton, Washington.
“When Senator John Glenn went up in space (aboard the shuttle Discovery in 1998), he said ’They’re starting to use seniors now’, and he wanted to put his name on the list,” she said.
The remains of the 202 people were in sealed metal capsules designed to withstand the rigors of space flight.
The cylinders will be mounted on plaques mentioning the space flight and given to the families who provided the ashes.