When Richard Garriott, the creator of the Ultima series of video games flew to the International Space Station in 2008, he was also on a bit of a secret mission. Much as Scotty had managed to sneak some Romulan ale aboard the USS Enterprise, Mr. Garriott snuck a wee bit of Scotty’s alter ego aboard. The actor who portrayed Scotty in the classic series and subsequent films, had always expressed a desire that he be laid to rest among the stars. Mr. Garriott, is known in-game as Lord British, the fictional ruler of the Kingdom of Britannia within Ultima’s world of Sosaria. He
James Doohans son, Chris, contacted Garriott while he was in quarantine in Kazakhstan a few days before the launch of his flight to the ISS. Garriott had paid the private company Space Adventures – the company he had co-founded – $30 million for a seat aboard Russia’s Soyuz TMA-13 capsule in October of 2008, and he was following in the footsteps of his father, the late NASA astronaut Owen Garriott. He would become the sixth space tourist. For his part, Chris Doohan has taken up his father’s role as Scotty in several video games as well as the online series, Star Trek Continues.
According to Garriott in the story he told to the Times of London (paywall), “it was completely clandestine. I said ‘I’m in quarantine in Kazakhstan . . . but if you can get the ashes to me, I’ll find a way of getting them aboard.'” The package arrived in time and Garriott printed three cards with the elder Doohan’s picture on them. He then laminated the cards, including a sprinkling of ashes within the sleeve. The three cards were then put inside his flight data file. “Everything that officially goes on board is logged, inspected and bagged — there’s a process, but there was no time to put it through that process,” Garriott said, so while the flight data file had been cleared, the extra cards had not. And because it might potentially disrupt relations between Space Adventures and Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities, Russia’s NASA counterpart, Garriott and the Doohand family agreed to keep things quiet for a while. ““The concern afterwards was that it could disrupt relations because I didn’t have permission . . . so in an abundance of caution I was asked to tell the family ‘Let’s not make a big deal out of it publicly’”, he told The Times. The younger Doohan added, “Richard said ‘We’ve got to keep this hush hush for a little while’ and here we are 12 years later. What he did was touching — it meant so much to me, so much to my family and it would have meant so much to my dad. “My dad had three passions: space, science and trains. He always wanted to go into space.”
And, James Doohan is still up in space, having travelled 1.7 billion miles in space in over 70,000 orbits of Earth. One of the cards was hidden under the floor of the ISS’ Columbus Space Module. A second card is displayed at the Doohan family home, while a third was released into space from the ISS and has likely re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and burnt up. Until now, the only known flight of James Doohan’s ashes were aboard a Space X Falcon 9 launched May 22, 2012. While that mission was delivering a Dragon capsule to the ISS, the ashes, along with those of Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper and 306 others were within the second stage of the booster, which re-entered the atmosphere a year later and burnt up.
Twelve years after the covert mission, Chris Doohan teased the Time article on his Twitter account.
And on December 25, he shared this screen shot from the article, showing the card secreted away on the ISS.
The Times article also contains a video in which Garriott shares that James Doohan has finally made it into space, but without revealing that he meant more than just a printed image. He said that he believes that the card is still there. “As far as I know, no one has ever seen it there and no one has moved it. James Doohan got his resting place among the stars.”