Final frontier: Naples man's ashes launched into space aboard SpaceX rocket

Eric Strachan/Daily News file 
 The late Bruce Thalhiemer, pictured with his stunt plane at Naples Airport in 1991. Thalheimer, who operated Thalheimers jewelers with his family, also was a noted aerobatic pilot. He died in a motorcycle accident in 2006.

Eric Strachan/Daily News file The late Bruce Thalhiemer, pictured with his stunt plane at Naples Airport in 1991. Thalheimer, who operated Thalheimers jewelers with his family, also was a noted aerobatic pilot. He died in a motorcycle accident in 2006.

Bruce Thalheimer loved going fast.

He rode motorcycles. He was a competitive aerobatic pilot.

But nothing thrilled Thalheimer more than rockets bursting into space. The thrill-seeking Naples businessman's dream was to one day be on a shuttle launch.

Early Tuesday — about six years after his death in a motorcycle crash — his lifelong wish was fulfilled when some of his ashes were launched into the cosmos aboard the SpaceX company's Falcon 9 rocket. The supply rocket is carrying provisions to the International Space Station.

Thalheimer's ashes joined those of more than 300 others, including, James Doohan — Scotty from the original "Star Trek" television show — which were launched into orbit as part of an in-space, for-profit burial business.

"It was the perfect way to memorialize my husband," said Nancy Thalheimer, Bruce's wife.

Bruce Thalheimer was the longtime owner of the Naples-based jewelry store bearing his name. His family still owns and operates the business.

Before he died six years ago in a motorcycle accident while traveling back from Daytona Beach's bike week, he and his wife frequented shuttle launches in Cape Canaveral. When they read in Smithsonian Air & Space magazine that memorial space flights were now possible, they were intrigued.

"When he passed away, it popped into my head," Nancy Thalheimer said. "His death was so sudden and we had to make arrangements, and I just thought, what a wonderful idea, launch his ashes into space."

She contacted the Texas-based firm Celestis Inc., which has been doing memorial launches since 1997, spent a few thousand dollars and signed up her adventurous husband for his "biggest dream."

She chose the orbit launch, which means the container holding some of Thalheimer's ashes will travel in orbit for a few weeks to a few years attached to a portion of the rocket. Inscribed on Thalheimer's capsule is "Fly safe, have fun, we love you" — the same thing Nancy Thalheimer told her husband every time he flew.

When the capsule returns to the atmosphere it will disintegrate, she said.

"I wanted him to be up there forever," she said.

It took six years for the stars to align for the launch to finally happen.

Changes in the location and launch date delayed the process for years. But at 3:44 a.m. Tuesday, the Falcon 9 rocket took off from Cape Canaveral.

Bruce Thalheimer joined 320 people from 18 countries on the journey. Their biographies are memorialized on the Celestis website.

Nancy Thalheimer and her two kids weren't able to attend the launch, but watched every moment of it on television.

Now when Nancy Thalheimer looks up at the stars, she's not just gazing at constellations.

"I'll know he's looking down on us," she said.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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