Illinois family honors late father by sending his DNA on deep space mission

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A Metro East household will ship their late father’s DNA on a historic deep area mission in a number of days to rejoice his life and keenness for area exploration.

Michael Dennis McKinney Sr., a longtime resident of Wooden River, Illinois, is certainly one of 264 folks with stays or DNA aboard the inaugural flight of the United Launch Alliance Vulcan rocket.


The rocket launch is ready for Monday, Jan. 8, on the Cape Canaveral House Pressure Station in Florida. It’s a part of a deep-space Voyager mission often called the “Enterprise Flight,” and it’s been within the works for almost three many years.

Michael was a latest addition to the flight. A father of two, Michael was born deaf. He overcame a number of communication boundaries to pursue a profession in electrical engineering and liked to review the nice unknown. Michael died on the age of 60 in 2018.

“He was an enormous success in my eyes,” mentioned Sam McKinney on his father. “He pushed by way of the whole lot, did as a lot as he might, and the world was loads higher for it.”

Michael McKinney. (Picture offered by: Celestis, Inc.)

Michael realized signal language as a youngster, invented a number of private devices as an grownup, and likewise loved scuba diving. Sam says he additionally had a subscription to NASA TV and confirmed him a number of planets and phenomena by way of a telescope through the years. Family and friends lovingly gave Michael the nickname “The Deaf Astronaut,” many believing he might have made that his profession if he wasn’t deaf.

After his father handed away, Sam wished to seek out some method to give him a tribute by way of area.

“I knew we needed to do one thing for him as a result of it was so sudden and we didn’t have any plans,” mentioned Sam. “I immediately went up on-line and I used to be like, ‘We have to launch him into area someway.’ And I had no thought how that labored, however I did a bunch of Google searches, discovered this program and simply didn’t even query it. We simply all mentioned, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’ And we’ve been excited ever since.”

The chance was made attainable with assist from business area company Celestis, Inc.

“Our CEO [Charlie Chafer] has been on the floor stage of the delivery of business spaceflight,” mentioned Celestis President Colby Youngblood. “He wished to create space accessible to each individual. That was the impetus behind creating Celestis, to have the ability to do this.”

“One of many methods to do this is, we all know that all of us go,” Youngblood continued. “We will deliver the area as little as $3,000 [to anyone]. You’ll be able to ship your DNA or the ashes of the one you love to area. And in order that’s a very good feeling.”

Youngblood says the Vulcan launch will function a take a look at for ULA, which has a pending contract with the U.S. authorities to coordinate one other 50-75 launches past this yr for exploration and analysis functions.

“Our flight capsules are going to be hooked up to the Vulcan Centuar rocket,” mentioned Youngblood. “It’s going to be leaving the Earth-Moon system and going right into a heliocentric orbit across the solar.”

On board with Michael’s stays will likely be a whole bunch of others, together with however not restricted to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and his spouse Majel, a number of Star Trek solid members, Apollo astronaut Philip Chapman, and U.S. presidents George Washington, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy.

Sam says he couldn’t think about a greater alternative for his father.

“He was an enormous Star Trek fan, so it’s a fairly large deal that he’s going with them,” mentioned Sam. “Star Trek was on the vanguard of illustration. There was truly an episode the place there was a deaf man who was main a complete tradition, and the actor was deaf. That was such an enormous second for [Michael]. I don’t suppose there’s a extra tailor-made launch. There’s little question that this was excellent for him.”

For Sam, there’s extra goal behind sending his father to area than simply to honor his life.

“I hoped that in a roundabout way, having the ability to have him do that, possibly he might be slightly little bit of a pathway to get extra deaf acceptance,” mentioned Sam. “[Get] extra deaf folks into science, and possibly reap the benefits of the key intelligence that’s round that folks simply don’t settle for.”

He continued, “Hopefully we could be a little bit extra accepting of deaf folks, permitting them to realize their desires, and discover methods to simply settle for people who find themselves completely different from ourselves into our lives slightly bit extra.”

For extra info on the Vulcan launch, CLICK HERE.

For a more in-depth take a look at memorial area providers supplied by way of Celestis, CLICK HERE.

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