As you know by now, SpaceX's most recent rocket launch attempt failed early in its flight, destroying the vehicle and sending its satellite payload and the ashes of James Doohan—Star Trek's original Scotty— into the ocean. It's just what happens sometimes with space technology: there's so much complexity, so much technology/aerodynamics/engine chemistry and engineering that just has to work perfectly, in sync and under high stress. And that's a point that is elegantly detailed by one of James' sons in a letter to BoingBoing about the SpaceX launch. It makes for poignant reading.
FOR WANT OF A TRANSPORTER
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 publicised, 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
I know several scientists and engineers who use Scotty's infamous "I tell the Captain it'll take me a day to fix it, when I know it'll take 6 hours" theory in real life. SpaceX will undoubtedly achieve a 100% successful launch some time soon. And with space journeys for non-astronauts almost upon us, I'm pretty sure James Doohan will make it into space properly. It'll be a good final farewell for his family. [BoingBoing]