Tuesday, May 1, 2007

9/11/01 Ashes Launched to Space (Press Coverage)

UP AEROSPACE LAUNCH: A GIANT CANDLE FOR CLOSURE
On 9/11/01 I gathered a small portion of ashes from my car windshield wiper, one mile south of Ground Zero. Six years later the ashes were launched into space from Spaceport America. 

Space.com and The Space Review published an article I wrote. 
Here's another Space.com article about the same launch, in general (unrelated to 9/11).

The Las Cruces Sun News wrote about it too:




Las Cruces Sun-News (New Mexico)
May 1, 2007 
Section: News 
Article ID: 5796917 
Cruces native pays space tribute to 9-11 victims

   Jose L. Medina Sun-News reporter

LAS CRUCES — Saturday's launch from Spaceport America received a lot of attention for carrying the cremains of Star Trek actor James Doohan, Mercury 7 astronaut Gordon Cooper and 200 others. But it was a Las Cruces native who took the launch as an opportunity to honor almost 3,000 others in a touching tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

Elaine Walker was living in Brooklyn the day of the attacks, only about a mile and half downwind from the twin towers. That day, she collected the ashes from Ground Zero that fell on her car's windshield.

Walker paid $495 to get the ashes she collected on UP Aerospace's SpaceLoft SL-2 rocket, which successfully reached space Saturday morning, climbing to an altitude of about 73 miles above the Earth.

Walker, 38, now living in Tempe, Ariz., recalled going to sleep the morning of the attacks after being up all night writing music and being awakened by her roommate.

"It was snowing outside," Walker said. "We couldn't understand why it was snowing, and we realized it was the ashes snowing down on Brooklyn."

Walker said she originally collected the ashes to have them tested for harmful chemicals, but never did. In the days after the attacks, Walker thought that, with the country likely going to war, returning to space would not be a top priority.

In the years since, Walker said she realized that her love of space could also be an avenue for coping.

It was also fitting for Walker — a musician who named her band "Zia" in honor of her home state — that the launch would happen near her hometown and would be the first to reach space from the spaceport.

"Since I didn't know anyone that actually died in the event and it was such a strange, dark event, there was no normal way to mourn it," Walker said.

Susan Schoenfeld, spokeswoman for Space Services, the parent company of Celestis which placed the ashes in the UP Aerospace rocket, said there's no limit to what their services can place on a space vehicle as long as it's small enough and not hazardous.

The SL-2 launched successfully Saturday morning and landed safely on White Sands Missile Range.

"I immediately started crying," Walker said of seeing the rocket lift off. "It was such a huge relief that I've been waiting for for a few years."

Schoenfeld said Walker's ashes will be returned to her shortly in a sealed capsule.

"We are expecting our payload back shortly," Schoenfeld said. "I know that UP Aerospace is in the process of retrieving it."

Walker is unsure what she will do with the ashes that went into space Saturday or the ashes she still has in a drawer.


Jose Medina can be reached at jmedina@lcsun-news.com



Copyright (c) 2007 Las Cruces Sun-News, a MediaNews Group Newspaper.