EL PASO, Texas - If all goes as planned Saturday, the cremated remains of the actor who portrayed "Scotty" aboard Star Trek's starship Enterprise will sail into suborbital space aboard a rocket launched from the southern New Mexico desert.
Actor James Doohan's remains, along with those of Apollo 7 astronaut Gordon Cooper and about 200 others, are aboard the second private rocket scheduled to be launched at Spaceport America, a commercial spaceport being developed in Upham, N.M.
UP Aerospace Inc. of Farmington, Conn., launched the first rocket from the desert site in September. But that Spaceloft XL rocket crashed into the rugged desert after spiraling out of control about nine seconds after liftoff.
Company officials blamed the failure on a faulty fin design. A Spaceloft SL-2 rocket, with a fourth fin added for stability, will carry the cremains, which were loaded into the rocket last month.
Family members paid $495 to place a few grams of their relatives' ashes on the rocket. Celestis, a Texas company, contracted with UP to send the cremated remains into space.
Charles Chafer, chief executive of Celestis, said last month that a CD with more than 11,000 condolences and fan notes was placed on the rocket with Doohan's cremains.
Doohan died in July 2005, at age 85. The remains of Gene Roddenberry, who created "Star Trek," were sent into space in 1997.
Saturday's launch from the fledgling spaceport - currently a 100-foot by 25-foot concrete slab in a patch of desert more than 50 miles north of Las Cruces - continues to keep the New Mexico project ahead of its nearest competitor in the West Texas desert.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, is said to be developing a spaceport north of Van Horn, Texas. Bezos' Blue Origin is working to develop manned spaceflight for space tourists.
British billionaire Richard Branson also has announced plans to launch a space tourism company, which is expected to have its headquarters at the New Mexico spaceport.