Astronaut’s ashes ready for spaceflight

PHOENIX – Dr Philip Chapman was the first American astronaut born in Australia and his lifelong dream was to go into space.

He served as a NASA mission scientist for Apollo 14, but never reached orbit. However, some of his cremated ashes must now go.

Houston-based Celestis Inc. said its Aurora flight in Memorial Spaceflight Services is scheduled to launch Nov. 30 from New Mexico’s Spaceport America.

Among the memorial travelers on board will be a small amount of Chapman’s ashes.

“It’s so much more wonderful than a traditional funeral,” Chapman’s widow, Maria Tseng, told ABC15 in Phoenix.

Chapman died in April 2021 at the age of 86 in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale. He and Tseng had been married for 37 years.

“The highlight of his life was being accepted as an astronaut,” Tseng said. “He was an accomplished scientist, he loved science. Knew since the age of 12 that he wanted to go to space… When he was a little boy, he lay down in the garden, looking at the stars. Chapman was selected in 1967 to be part of Astronaut Group 6, who were primarily scientists rather than pilots. He was designated for the Skylab-B space mission, but the program was cancelled.

Tseng said her husband was “absolutely crushed…Not in a selfish sense, but in a sense he had so much to accomplish for science in the mission.” Chapman resigned from NASA in 1972 due to what he believed to be a lack of opportunity for scientists in the astronaut corps.

He then worked on laser propulsion and the concept of solar-powered satellites in a research laboratory in Massachusetts.

Chapman then became chief scientist for two companies that were independently developing reusable commercial spacecraft to advance the space economy and service the International Space Station.

In 2009, Chapman founded a study group to pursue the development of solar power satellites.

The Aurora Flight will be Celestis’ ninth launch. The cremated remains will reach outer space and briefly be weightless in space before returning to Earth.

Each stolen capsule with the cremated remains or DNA sample still sealed inside will be presented to family and other loved ones as a keepsake, Celestis officials said.

They said Chapman’s ashes would be transported again as part of a permanent deep-space mission expected to take place later this year.

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