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Blasted into orbit Blasted into orbit
by Asa Butcher
2007-04-30 10:07:35
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Over the past few weeks a number of famous individuals have passed away, but it was the story of Star Trek actor James Doohan's ashes being sent about 70 miles above the earth for a 15-minute flight and eventual soft return to earth that caught my attention. According to BBC News, Doohan's ashes were accompanied by the remains of former US astronaut Gordon Cooper and those of 200 other people, but my question is why?

I could understand if the ashes remained in space or burnt up in the atmosphere, but to go up and then come back down again sounds ridiculous. The cost of launching a single gram of ashes costs $495 (£248), but my thought is which part of the cremated body was scooped up? Did the remains of the left foot experience space flight or was it the right hand that was weightless? Really, what is the point?

These people didn't get to experience space travel in their lifetime, so they are blasted into space to fulfil their dream. Why not dig up our great-grandparents and take them for a ride in a Boeing? I am sure they would rest in peace far easier if this one burning ambition was accomplished. I could take my iPod down to the local graveyard and place the headphones on the headstones so the 18th century generation can hear The Beatles – you hear them spinning in their coffins.

Maybe my thought that being blasted into space is a good day out for the family is rather cynical, yet my mind always goes to the money on these types of extravaganzas. You're dead and you don't give a rat's arse if you are 6ft under or 70 miles up, yet money is spent to fulfil a dream that couldn't be achieved in your lifetime. Gees!

It seems that in 2009 people will be able to blast remains into deep space, which will cost up to $12,500 (£6,257), yet again this sounds like a cold-hearted thing to do to a family member, almost like flushing the goldfish down the toilet. 3-2-1-Lift off! Right, let's read the Will. The whole enterprise seems too macabre for even me and I don't believe in any afterlife. Please cremate me in the top-shelf of the oven at 225C and turn me over half-way; feel free to sprinkle some icing sugar over the top.

Personally, I believe death is like falling asleep, or at least I bloody hope so! A drift into unconsciousness and that's it. RIP. Please cremate me because I'd rather not wake up in the coffin – worst nightmare. OK, worst nightmare is waking up in the urn! Death is scary, it is the great unknown to which we all steadily march one second at a time, but once you are there why start messing about on rockets?

Over the weekend my brother took a friend's ashes to be scattered over a local harbour near where he grew up. This is a simple, poignant and beautiful idea, plus it has a distinct lack of booster rockets, countdowns and scientists. Maybe the families of those sent into lower orbit will do this once the few grammes of remains land on terra firma, but what has that extra tomfoolery accomplished?

As for me, well the idea of my urn staring down from a shelf seems a little freaky and I doubt if anybody would appreciate that. Actually, I wouldn't mind the ashes to be poured into a clear glass container in the shape of my body or even placed into an hourglass – good to be helpful even after death. If these don't sound too appealing, then you can sprinkle me over the Ovi magazine website…just scan the ashes, darling!

    
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Sand2007-04-30 10:17:33
And then there's the possibility of inserting ashes into salt shakers so a meal can have the flavor of an ancestor and a few atoms become alive again.


Asa2007-04-30 21:24:26
Sounds a bit like Keith Richards and his "snorting his father's ashes" comment.


Sand2007-04-30 22:08:33
Symbolically it is similar to Catholics taking the "body of Christ"


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