As a teenager, Michael Clive remembers taking the long train ride with his father from their home in Maryland to Virginia to attend their first Mars Society meeting. Michael remembers watching his father excitedly discuss with other space enthusiasts the possibility of a future mission to Mars.
In death, his father, Alan, will be closer than ever to his dream of heavenly travel, said his son, now 39 and a resident of Castro Valley in Alameda County.
Alan’s remains will be aboard the inaugural launch of the highly anticipated Vulcan Centaur rocket, which will lift off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on December 24. Aboard the United Launch Alliance rocket will be the remains and DNA samples of 338 people, including some members of the original “Star Trek” television series.
“He always found a way to overcome his own limitations,” Clive said of his father. He said he was happy to help his father realize his dream by securing space for his remains on the Tranquility flight.
Memorial spaceflights are the hallmark of Texas-based Celestis Inc., which began spaceflight in 1997. Tiny capsules, varying in size “from a lipstick container to about half a of a watch battery,” are attached to commercial spaceflight with excess space. capacity, said Charles Chafer, co-founder and CEO of Celestis.
Like Celestis’ first mission, which carried the remains of “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, this month’s launch will also include the remains of several people connected to the original TV series, including Nichelle Nichols (who played Lt. Uhura), Jackson DeForest Kelley. (who played Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy) and James Doohan (who played Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery “Scotty” Scott).
Costs to blast a loved one’s remains into space can be as high as $12,995 for a moon landing or deep space launch, according to the Celestis website.
The Dec. 24 launch is the first time two memorial flights have been attached to the same rocket, Chafer said — the Tranquility flight and the aptly named Enterprise flight. The rocket will first send a lunar lander to conduct studies of the Moon. Seventy capsules containing remains will accompany the lander to the surface of the Moon.
“This becomes their ultimate memorial site,” Chafer said. “Everyone on Earth can look up at night, under the full moon, and see where Grandma is memorialized. »
The rocket will then continue its journey, with the spacecraft traveling approximately 100 million kilometers in orbit around the sun.
“This will be humanity’s most remote outpost,” Chafer said.
For years, Michael Clive has been waiting to fulfill his promise to give his father a space memorial.
Alan grew up in Detroit but spent much of his adult life in the suburbs of Washington, DC. After losing his sight at age 22, Alan became a strong advocate for disabled disaster victims, particularly throughout his 23-year career with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Office of Equal Rights. EMERGENCIES. But his true love has always been space.
Alan read his son bedtime stories from science fiction novels, and they frequently visited the National Air and Space Museum, Michael recalls. Their favorite movie was “Apollo 13,” in which Michael watched and explained the scenes to his father.
Alan died in 2008 after a 10-year battle with prostate cancer, Michael said. Shortly after his father’s death, Michael said he was inspired to move from his career in film special effects in Hollywood to aerospace. He took adult classes at Venice Beach High School to learn how to make aerospace components and design his own rockets. Michael later worked at aerospace start-ups, including SpaceX, in and around the Los Angeles area.
“It was catalyzed by his death,” Michael said of the role his father’s passing played in his decision to change careers. “He had no idea this would happen.”
In addition to human remains, the Enterprise flight will carry digital data, such as original musical compositions, into Earth’s orbit. Satellites typically last about five years before “the laws of physics, gravity and solar activity cause the spacecraft to descend to the edge of Earth’s atmosphere, where… it essentially disintegrates,” a Chafer said.
“It was designed that way so as not to create space debris,” he said. “Basically, dust to dust.”
As more commercial industries partner on flights to space – including the pharmaceutical sector – Celestis has been selling space monuments for more than 20 years. The Tranquility and Enterprise voyages will be the company’s 19th and 20th flights, Chafer said, and the pace of missions has increased in recent years.
Michael hopes the launch on December 24 will coincide with clear nights and a full moon. He plans to follow the rocket’s coordinates and point his telescope at the night sky when his father’s remains reach their final resting place.
With the pace of space travel, Michael considered the possibility that his daughters – Lyra, 3, who loves rockets, or Maia, 7 months, whose middle name is Alan, after his grandfather – one day have the chance to visit them. the moon.
“It’s weird to say that, isn’t it?” he said. “It is reasonable to think that a member of my family – like perhaps my daughters or perhaps their granddaughter – will one day travel to the moon and visit his grave there.”