Exclusive: Interview with CEO of Enterprise Memorial Space Flight

United Launch Alliance launch at SLC-41 of AFSPC-11. Image courtesy United Launch Alliance
United Launch Alliance launch at SLC-41 of AFSPC-11. Image courtesy United Launch Alliance /

The Enterprise Memorial Space Flight is set to launch later this year. 

Later in 2022, Celestis’ Enterprise Memorial Space Flight will launch with the remains of Star Trek alumni, including Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, his wife Majel Barrett Roddenberry, the Enterprise’s Chief engineer who was played by James Doohan, and special effects master, Douglas Trumball, and now, a DNA sample of DeForest Kelley, the Enterprise’s Dr. McCoy, which was donated by his friend and personal assistant, Kris Smith.

The inaugrual flight of United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket will also establish humanity’s first outpost in the deeper cosmos. This unique voyage will also carry the well-wishes of thousands of fans and loved ones that have sent messages through Celestis’ Mindfile system. According to the site description: It can archive over 81,000 pages of eye-readable text or pictures on a one-inch nickel disc 10,000 times faster than current focused ion beam technology for a duration of over 10,000 years! Readable to the human-eye, the content is laser-etched to one billionth of a meter onto a nickel surface, making your engraving virtually disaster-proof, and withstand temperatures up to 2,651 degrees F.

I had the opportunity to speak with Celestis’ CEO and Co-founder, Charles Chafer, this afternoon so I could ask him more about the flight and how fans can send those messages along with these Star Trek icons.

How did the Enterprise Flight get started? We had always planned to offer what we called our Voyager service, but the Enterprise flight came about when I approached Majel Roddenberry about flying her husband Gene’s remains in our very first which went to earth orbit in 1997. Majel said she would be happy to do that, but she wanted to make me a deal. When it was her time, both she and Gene would be flown together on a deep space mission.

This is the first type of flight of its kind, right? 

We’ve been scheduling these flights for quite some time, but this will be our first Voyager service, in which the rocket will travel beyond the Earth-Moon system into deep space. We’ve been scheduling passengers for a number of years, but when we announced that the journey had been scheduled, the pace accelerated quite a bit.

Along with flying the remains of loved ones, we also offer to fly the DNA of loved ones and have opened it up to the living. For instance, Rod Roddenberry’s DNA is traveling with his parents’ remains and Nichelle Nichols’ son is including his DNA as well. DeForest Kelley’s DNA will also be on this flight, thanks to his friend, Kris Smith, who donated a lock of his hair.  But this isn’t just open to those connected to Star Trek; everyone is welcome.

Launch of Atlas V Juno from Cape Canaveral AFS. Image courtesy United Launch Alliance /

Can these flights be pre-arranged for future wishes? 

Yes, we do have prearrangement programs. The individual can make advance payment, and that money will go into a trust account which the person continues to own. When the individual passes away, they’ll be taken on the next type of flight they’ve chosen.

Will there be an invitation to Star Trek actors to attend the launch? Is it open to the public or just family members of those aboard?  Oh, yes. We’re going to host somewhere around a couple thousand guests with some honorary speakers and visitors. There will be three days of launch activities which won’t be open to the public, but family members of individuals aboard the flight can bring as many friends and family members as they want.

How long will the flight take? Several months, at least six months. We don’t know which way we’re going yet because the launch has to align with the moon.

Can people at home watch the launch? If so, how? This is all In the works, but there will be a live stream.

Let’s talk about Mindfile. It’s a fantastic idea. How did it come about? We’ve actually been doing something like that for many, many years. We’ve had opportunities to fly whatever someone wants to contribute on a “cosmic message in a bottle.” We formalized it in the form of a mindfile for the Enterprise Flight. It’s the ultimate time capsule.

Are the messages open to anyone who wants to submit, or do they have to come from Star Trek fans and/or loved ones of other travelers? Absolutely anyone can participate. When we flew James “Scotty” Doohan on two missions, the Legacy and the New Frontier, we received tens of thousands of messages.

Are there video/audio capabilities for messages? Are there upload capabilities that will allow someone to upload something they’ve already written? People can upload something they’ve already written as well as photos, and we’re in the process of launching the ability to include video and/or audio files. That should be ready in time for this flight.

Loved ones will soon be able to purchase deep space radio transmission for their messages. We’ll take all these messages and configure these for deep space radio transmission which we call Cosmic Radio. The messages will then be beamed to distant planets.

United Launch Alliance launch at SLC-41 of AFSPC-11. Image courtesy United Launch Alliance /

Will the messages be on an actual disc, and will they be sent into space at the same time as the capsules? It’s actually a wafer, which can hold 500 pages of messages, made of a very strong metal etched wtith radiation resistant material. The Mindfile messages will last as long as the satellite does. The free messages won’t necessarily last that long. .

We wrapped up the conversation by talking about the DNA process which allows people to send part of themselves to space while they’re still alive. Mr. Chafer said they’ve contracted with a company that processes DNA. A cheek swab is taken which is then sent to the plant in Canada. They process it and combine it with inert material makes it a powder. Then that powder is encapsulated. They have flown hair samples; but in the case of DeForest Kelley, they’re sending the hair sample to the processing plant so that it can be processed into a powder.

Image courtesy Celestis, Inc. /

Chafer said they have five missions planned in the next ten months. Star Trek fans should be able to watch the launch on the Enterprise flight which is anticipated, but not guaranteed, for later on this year. In the meantime, if you’re interested in sending a message to travel along with some of Star Trek’s finest, go to Celestis Mindfile for more details.

Next. Late Nichelle Nichols is being honoroed with a memorial space flight. dark