The Last Launch: Turn On, Tune In, Blast Off

by Robert Sanders

A joint Berkeley/Spanish experiment flew into orbit with Timothy Leary's ashes off Grand Canary Island Monday, April 21, accompanied by the cremains of luminaries such as Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and space colonization guru Gerard O'Neill.

The instrument-an extreme ultraviolet spectrometer built by Berkeley's Space Astrophysics Group in collaboration with the Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aeroespacial-will fly aboard Spain's first scientific satellite.

Packed into the last stage of the rocket were ashes of would-be astronauts, including Leary, who died last year; Roddenberry, who died in 1991; and O'Neill, who died in 1992. The last stage and ashes will orbit Earth for some six years before they enter the atmosphere and burn up.

The spectrometer will make measurements of the glow of hot gas between the stars, according to Stuart Bowyer, professor in the graduate school and a principal investigator. One of the goals is to search for the signature of the million-degree material discovered by the Berkeley group in the 1960s and still poorly understood. The instrument also has the potential to weigh the universe and to predict its long-term future.

The spectrometer will search for possible evidence of massive, long-lived neutrinos, which some cosmologists have proposed could be the universe's "missing mass."

Leary obtained his PhD in psychology from Berkeley in 1950 and conducted research in psychotherapy before leaving in 1955 following his wife's suicide. Only later did he discover LSD and urge a generation of Americans to "turn on, tune in and drop out."



Copyright 1997, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
Comments? E-mail