Space Exploration in a Time of Social Turmoil

The Expedition 63 crew welcomes Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA/Bill Stafford)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The contrast was jarring. In one browser window, two NASA astronauts were making their way to the International Space Station (ISS) after the first orbital launch of a crew from U.S. soil in nearly 9 years.

In another window, scenes of chaos played out as protests over the death of George Floyd after his arrest by Minneapolis police erupted into violent clashes across the country.


Falcon 1 Crash Sent Gordo’s and Scotty’s Ashes into the Pacific

Saturday’s failure of SpaceX’s Falcon 1 launch vehicle did more than destroy three small satellites. It also sent the ashes of Mercury astronaut Leroy Gordon Cooper Jr., Star Trek actor James “Scotty” Doohan and 206 other people into the Pacific Ocean instead of orbit.

The remains were placed aboard the rocket through a Texas-based company called Celestis. A spokeswoman, Susan Schonfeld, told The New York Times that the company would re-fly the remains of all 208 people using backup samples.

This launch marked the second effort to send Doohan’s and Cooper’s ashes into space; last year, they were launched aboard an UP Aerospace suborbital rocket in New Mexico. The payload containing the ashes was lost for about three weeks in the rugged mountains before being recovered in good shape.

One of Doohan’s seven children, Ehrich Blackhound, said he has had enough. He wrote an eloquent piece on Boing Boing saying that each launch opens an unhealed wound.