Ashes Of Ex-Astronaut Who Died In Arizona Headed For Space

PHOENIX (AP) — Dr. Philip Chapman was the first Australian-born American astronaut and his lifelong dream was to go into space.

He served as a NASA mission scientist for Apollo 14, but never made it into orbit.

However, some of his cremated ashes now are scheduled to 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 Phoenix TV station ABC15.

Chapman died in April 2021 at age 86 in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale. He and Tseng, his second wife, had been married for 37 years before his death.

“The highlight of his life was being accepted as an astronaut,” Tseng said. “He was the consummate scientist, loved science. Knew since he was 12 years old that he wanted to go into space ... When he was a little boy he would lie in the backyard, looking up at the stars.”

Chapman was selected in August 1967 to be a member of Astronaut Group 6, who were primarily scientists rather than pilots.

He was slated for Skylab-B’s mission to space, but the program was canceled.

Tseng said her husband was "absolutely crushed... Not in a selfish sense but in a sense he had so much to accomplish for science on the mission.”

Chapman resigned from NASA in 1972 over what he believed was a lack of opportunities for scientists in the astronaut corps.

He then worked on laser propulsion and the concept of solar power satellites at a Massachusetts research laboratory.

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

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

The Aurora Flight will be Celestis’ ninth such launch. Chapman and others on board will reach outer space and briefly experience space’s weightlessness before returning safely to Earth.

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

They said Chapman’s ashes will be flown again on a permanent deep space mission slated to take place later this year.

“It’s poignant in many ways that he spent his life in pursuit of going to space and never quite made it, but we’re going to give him his first chance to really go,” Celestis CEO Charles Chafer said.

“I never said goodbye because he died rather suddenly, so at the big launch really goodbye because he’s not coming back,” said Tseng.