Space, the Final Smuggling Frontier
On Christmas day, we learned that the ashes of James Doohan, the actor who played Scotty in the original Star Trek series and several movies, were surreptitiously brought to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2008. For fans of the classic science fiction franchise, it was a fitting extraterrestrial resting place for the man who played a beloved character. For those with dreams of a free life beyond Earth’s gravity, though, it was also a hint that the roguish spirit of Han Solo and Malcolm Reynolds has already taken root in humanity’s ventures into space.
“Now it can be revealed that in death the actor who played the starship’s chief engineer has travelled nearly 1.7 billion miles through space, orbiting Earth more than 70,000 times, after his ashes were hidden secretly on the International Space Station,” the Times of London reported on December 25. “‘It was completely clandestine,’ said Richard Garriott, a video game entrepreneur who smuggled James Doohan’s ashes on to the ISS in 2008 during a 12-day mission as a private astronaut.”
Garriott, who stashed a laminated card containing some of Doohan’s ashes in the ISS’s Columbus module at the request of the actor’s son, Chris, makes another appearance in space smuggling lore. The video game entrepreneur, who paid a reported $30 million to fly in a Soyuz capsule to the ISS, passed along gossip he’d picked up about cosmonauts transporting unapproved items into space.
“One of the historically common methods of taking a few extra personal items on board was on Soyuz, when you would be driving out to the launch pad where—starting with Gagarin—he stopped to unzip his space suit to urinate on the back tire of the bus,” Garriott told Chris Carberry, author of the 2019 book, Alcohol in Space: Past, Present and Future. “As it turns out, it was also an opportunity to push something inside your spacesuit at the last minute.”
We’re talking about Russian cosmonauts here but, surprisingly, the illicit orbital beverage of choice wasn’t vodka. “Cognac became the preferred drink for cosmonauts,” noted Carberry in his book. “And they devised clever
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