SCOTTSDALE — "It’s so much more wonderful than a traditional funeral,” said Maria Tseng with a giant smile.
This November, Maria Tseng will say goodbye to her late husband Dr. Philip Chapman the only way she sees fit, by sending a small bit of his ashes on a one-way flight to a place he always dreamed of.
“When he was a little boy he would lie in the backyard, looking up at the stars,” said Tseng.
You see, Dr. Chapman was the first Australian born American Astronaut.
Joining NASA in 1967, he’d go on to participate in many history making moments of the space race. Including nervously watching from mission control as Neil Armstrong and Apollo eleven touched down on the moon's surface.
“He landed it about thirty seconds before they ran out of fuel so everyone in mission control as Phil said was completely dead quiet, people weren’t even breathing,” said Tseng.
But when his time came to lunch into orbit himself, his mission on Skylab-B was canceled. His dreams of spaceflight dashed.
“Absolutely crushed, absolutely crushed,” said Tseng. “Not in a selfish sense but in a sense he had so much to accomplish for science on the mission.”
That was as close to space as he’d come in his lifetime. When he passed away last year, Tseng says her family discovered a company called Celestis, Inc.
“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 gonna give him his first chance to really go,” said Celestis CEO Charles Chafer.
Celestis specializes in memorial spaceflights. Come November, a small amount of Chapman’s cremated remains will be put into a small capsule and attached to a rocket. With family and friends in attendance, they’ll watch as he’s finally launched into outer space.
“What I like to say is there aren’t any, that I’m aware of, funeral or memorial services, where there’s so much high diving and cheering going on,” said Chafer.
“I never said goodbye because he died rather suddenly, so at the big launch really goodbye because he’s not coming back,” said Tseng through tears.
But the thought of where he’s going, is helping her through the pain of that goodbye. She's ensuring his dream of floating among the stars, long thought to be a relic of his past, finally comes true.