It turns out that space funerals might not be such a great idea after all. Commercial spaceflight company SpaceX had their third failed launch in a row last night when the Falcon 1 rocket began spinning out of control less than two minutes after liftoff in the Marshall Islands. Aboard the doomed rocket were the ashes 208 people including Star Trek actor James “Scotty” Doohan.
Space burial company Celestis charged people up to nearly $12,000 to get their ashes on Falcon 1 and promised that the ship could orbit the Earth for “between 10 years to 240 years.” Since this rocket failed to reach orbit, the 208 cremated space explorers are eligible for free rides on the next Celestis launch. If they wanted sci-fi funerals, Scotty and his fellow space aficionados probably would have been a lot better off beaming up to heaven Star Trek coffins. Celestis may be willing to try and shoot the ashes into space again free of charge, but their partner in the venture, SpaceX, has never really managed to get off the ground.
SpaceX was started in 2002 by Paypal founder Elon Musk as a low cost space delivery service. Since then, they’ve unsuccessfully tried to launch their Falcon 1 rocket three times. In 2006, the first SpaceX Falcon flight failed due to a fuel leak. Last year, the second Falcon 1 rocket made it to space, but got lost by SpaceX mission control.
SpaceX honcho Musk attempted to reassure his employees today with a message posted on his web site promising that the company “will not skip a beat” because “as a precautionary measure to guard against the possibility of flight 3 not reaching orbit” he’d duped some gullible investors into giving him “significant” funding right before this latest rocket debacle. Smooth move Mr. Musk. Maybe Richard Branson really isn’t the only billionaire with a future in space exploration.