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From Hair to Eternity: locks of US presidents heading to space

From Hair to Eternity: locks of US presidents heading to space
February 20, 2023 Web Desk

WASHINGTON (AFP) - George Washington, John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan are going on a hair-raising journey into outer space.

Not the actual -- and long dead -- former US presidents, of course, but samples of their hair.

Celestis, a Texas-based company that specializes in space burials, announced the plan on Monday, which is celebrated as Presidents' Day in the United States.

Celestis said it will launch "what we believe to be authenticated DNA" of the former presidents into space aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) rocket later this year.

Also aboard the flight -- dubbed "Enterprise" -- will be some of the cremated remains of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and other cast members from the groundbreaking 1960s television series.

The USS Enterprise was the starship in the sci-fi show whose mission was to "go boldly where no man has gone before."

Celestis said the hair samples of the four former presidents were gifted by an anonymous donor and were accompanied by certificates of authenticity.

It said they originally came from the collection of Louis Mushro, a "celebrity hair collector and appraiser" from Michigan who died in 2014.

"These hair samples have been in a climate-controlled facility for several years in preparation for this mission," Celestis said in a statement.

"By adding the DNA of these American icons to Enterprise, we establish a precursor for future human missions, and add to the historical record of human exploration of deep space," Celestis co-founder and CEO Charles Chafer said.

The hair samples and thimble-sized capsules of cremated remains are to be carried into space by a ULA Vulcan rocket scheduled to blast off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in the next few months on its maider flight.

The ULA rocket is to deploy two satellites, send a private lunar lander to the Moon and then launch the payload of hair samples and remains into deep space.

ULA president and CEO Tory Bruno said it was a "tremendous honor to work with Celestis to launch these four esteemed US presidents on our Vulcan launch vehicle."

Celestis sent some of Roddenberry's ashes into orbit around the Earth on its premier "Founders Flight" rocket launch in 1997.

The Houston company currently charges $4,995 to launch remains into Earth orbit and a voyage into deep space beyond the Moon begins at $12,500.