One of the most iconic faces in the Star Trek universe, James Doohan played Montgomery “Scotty” Scott on the original series and subsequent movies, as well as popping up in other parts of the franchise. The actor died in 2005 at age 85, but it’s recently been revealed that his ashes made it to space via an astronaut bringing them to the International Space Station. How, then, did this take place?
Richard Garriott, an entrepreneur and private astronaut, managed to smuggle Doohan’s ashes onto the ISS as part of a 12-day trip in 2008. The move was endorsed by Doohan’s son, based on his father’s apparent wish to visit the ISS, and ended up being a secretive plan after two similar requests were denied. Garriott was able to to get the ashes on board through a laminated card with Doohan’s photo and some of his remains, which he then hid under the floor cladding of the Columbus module on the station.
Born in Vancouver, Doohan served in World War II and began his acting career in radio and television in the late 1940s. By the time he was cast as Scotty, the performer had racked up a prolific number of appearances, and made his mark on the show as the chief engineer of the USS Enterprise and by providing different voices for the production. Doohan later appeared in the Star Trek movie series with the original cast, and turned up in a notable episode of The Next Generation.
Intriguingly, Garriott’s mission was not the first or last time that attempts had been to made to get the actor into space, with a rocket flight in 2007 briefly leaving the Earth’s atmosphere, and another launch failing in 2008. In 2012, more of his ashes were then taken into the stars, meaning that Doohan has made multiple posthumous journeys beyond our planet.
Of course, the associations between Star Trek, NASA and other agencies are extensive, with recent examples including an asteroid belt being named after Leonard Nimoy. Those associated with the show and films have also made many appearances on behalf of NASA, and it’s good to know that James Doohan managed to achieve a lasting presence at the forefront of space research.