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The ashes of a Massachusetts man will be launched into deep space on the Enterprise Flight: ‘He was a big science fiction reader’

Boston Herald - 1/5/2024

The ashes of a local man, who almost always had “a science fiction novel in his hands,” will be launched into deep space on the Enterprise Flight next week.

Woburn native Francis Gillis’ cremated remains will be on board Celestis’ first-ever deep space Voyager Mission, known as the Enterprise Flight — which is scheduled for liftoff on Monday from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Gillis, a U.S. Army veteran who passed away in 2018 when he was 67, wrote in his will that he wanted to be involved in this specific space flight.

“He didn’t want his ashes just going around the moon,” his sister Jacqueline Gillis told the Herald this week. “He wanted to be out there in deep, deep space.

“We’re just thrilled for him,” she added. “What a crew he’s with.”

Gillis will be on board a spacecraft containing the cremated remains, DNA samples, and greeting messages of more than 200 individuals.

Among those honored on board will include Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, his wife “The First Lady of Star Trek” Majel Barrett Roddenberry, along with several other original cast and crew members from the series, including Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, DeForest Kelley and others.

Gillis was a big fan of Star Trek and Star Wars, his sister said.

“I never saw my brother without a science fiction novel in his hands,” Jacqueline added. “He was a big science fiction reader.”

The flight will also include the DNA of three presidents: George Washington, John F. Kennedy and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Gillis’ early summers at Boy Scout camps shaped his passion for scouting, a commitment that remained a constant throughout his life. As a student at Woburn High School, he was active in the Naval ROTC.

He then received an Army scholarship to Northeastern University, where he graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering as a Distinguished Military Graduate. Following graduation, he served 22 years in the U.S. Army and retired with the rank of Lt. Colonel.

Following his death, his family members were going over his will with an accountant, who said they didn’t really need to put his ashes on the space flight.

“Then the lights flickered in the house,” Jacqueline said while laughing. “It was such a funny moment.”

Scheduled for Monday, the United Launch Alliance Vulcan rocket will launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, position a lunar lander on course for its rendezvous with the Moon, and continue into a solar orbit around the sun.

Once the Centaur upper stage has achieved this orbit, the Enterprise Flight will be renamed Enterprise Station — where it will go on an endless journey in interplanetary space.

Celestis, Inc., which calls itself the pioneer and global leader in memorial spaceflight services, has missions that offer four destinations: reaching into suborbital space, Earth’s orbit, the Moon’s surface, and now with the Enterprise Flight to interplanetary space.

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