Timothy Leary's final trip - boldly going into orbit

Edward Helmore,New York
Sunday 20 April 1997 23:02

Timothy Leary (right), the LSD guru who died last year, is to take another trip: his ashes will be blasted into space aboard a rocket due to lift off from the Canary Islands today. About 7 grams of the author's ashes will be joined by those of 23 others who in life wanted their mortal remains to circle the earth in a cylinder the size of a tin of baked beans.

The trip was organised by a Dallas-based company, Celestis Inc., which sold reservations on the Pegasus rocket for $4,800 a-piece. Leary's co- travellers include Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and a five-year- old New York boy who loved space. Their ashes will orbit the earth for six years, before re-entering the atmosphere to burn up again.

The rocket's purpose is not solely to grant these bizarre last wishes. Its primary mission is to launch Spain's first satellite. Celestis, a company dedicated to promoting "positive projects on Earth and in outer space", has set up a foundation whose only service is to arrange for this and future extra-terrestrial funerals. "Space remains the domain of a few, the dream of many," said the company's president, Charles Chafer, in a statement. "The dream can finally be realised."

For Leary, who first found fame, as a Harvard University lecturer, in the 1960s by promoting the use of hallucinogenic drugs like LSD, with exhortations to "tune in, turn on and drop out", the space expedition is his final stunt.

Before his death from prostate cancer last May, he said he would tune out permanently, possibly by committing suicide in cyberspace. This was not to be. But he may yet find a fitting resting place in space itself.

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