SpaceX is one of many companies from private industry who are trying to fill the gap left in US human access to Space following the retirement of the shuttle program in 2011. No astronauts flew with the dragon capsule on this occasion, but that goal should follow by 2015.
Onboard the flight, however, in addition to replacement supplies for the ISS, was a more unusual cargo – a container holding more than 300 lipstick-tube sized canisters filled with ash. If all goes as planned, this container will separate from the main Falcon 9 rocket during flight and be left in space where it will spend the next year orbiting the Earth before being slowly pulled back into Earth’s atmosphere and burning up.
Nothing special about that you might think – but these containers each hold a sample of ash from space enthusiasts, all wishing for a part of themselves to end their days in the silent, dark beauty of the cosmos. Among these phials are some remains from Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper who died in 2004, and actor James “beam me up Scotty” Doohan who died in 2005 and famously played chief engineer Montgomery Scott in the Star Trek series and films.
Not quite the style of Space tourism I would like to be involved with yet – I prefer to be breathing when I experience microg! However, perhaps in another 30 or so years I might consider it!