The search for the UP Aerospace payload of experiments and the cremated remains of some 200 people — including Scotty of "Star Trek" fame as well as pioneering NASA Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper — continues within New Mexico's rugged mountain landscape.
After a successful blastoff from New Mexico's Spaceport America on April 28, the UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL rocket and its payload nosed into space on a suborbital trajectory. As part of launch operations, the rocket was tracked by specialists at the neighboring White Sands Missile Range.
While all went well with the flight, the rocket components parachuted into rough-and-tumble terrain. Repeated searches within the landing zone have come up empty.
Jerry Larson, president of UP Aerospace, has said the general location of the rocket hardware is known within 1,300 feet (400 meters) or so. But given the dense vegetation on the side of the mountain being searched, along with the equipment available to the search team, pinpointing the exact locale has proven a tough assignment.
Yet another trip up on the mountain is slated next week, Larson said.
Joining the search this time is the manufacturer of the transmitters that were attached to the the rocket components. He'll be bringing high-end tracking gear and years of expertise in locating objects in mountain terrain environments.
The UP Aerospace payload included samples of cremated remains from more than 200 people, including James Doohan, who played the role of Chief Engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott in the original "Star Trek" series as well as a series of spin-off movies. Doohan died in 2005 at the age of 85.
Cooper, who was also represented on the Celestis "memorial spaceflight," orbited Earth 22 times during his Mercury 9 flight in 1963 and was also the command pilot for the Gemini 5 mission in 1965. He died in 2004 at the age of 77.
This report was supplemented by MSNBC.com.
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