A local man’s remains will join those of the creator of Star Trek and some of the original cast members, along with the DNA of three U.S. presidents and an Apollo astronaut, on a voyage through space: the final frontier.
A portion of the remains of Oakwood resident Larry Rab will be on board a deep space flight provided through the company Celestis, Inc., which offers memorial spaceflight services, as Larry’s family commemorates his life and his love of astrophysics and science fiction.
Fairborn native and former Fairmont High School teacher Sharon Rab saw the space flight as a way to honor her late husband, who died earlier this year on Jan. 17. He was 78. They were married for 45 years.
“He was a real science fiction fan, but science was never just fiction to him,” Sharon said about Larry.
Sharon and Larry’s twin brother, Paul Rab, were speaking with Tobias Funeral Home the day after Larry died about the different options available in ways they could memorialize Larry and his life. None of the options stuck out to them until they got to the options of memorial spaceflight services, particularly that of a flight that would send a symbolic portion of Larry’s remains into deep space.
“That would be of great interest to him (Larry) to go into deep space,” Sharon said. She said Paul also agreed that Larry would love the idea, which solidified the plan.
Larry was a 1962 graduate of Oakwood High School who practiced law in Dayton for more than 25 years. He majored in English at Earlham College, graduating in 1966, before he studied history at the University of Cincinnati and then later earned a law degree from the University of Cincinnati School of Law in 1970.
“In spite of all of that, he has always been interested in space, and he would read these very complicated books on space,” Sharon said. “And he watched every Star Trek, he knew every Star Trek, but it was all a pursuit of science and the imagination.”
Larry also had an interest in ancient history and classic literature, bonding with Sharon over interests in Shakespeare. Sharon grew up in Fairborn and taught at Fairmont for more than 30 years before founding the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. She also taught at Miami University in Oxford.
“He was so eager to share all the infinite ideas about space and time,” Sharon said.
Larry will be included on a spacecraft launching later this year on Celestis’ first deep space Voyager Mission, the Enterprise Flight, a reference to the starship Enterprise in the Star Trek franchise. The spacecraft will also contain the DNA, cremated remains, and “MindFiles” of more than 200 individuals, including Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and his wife, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry; original cast members Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, and DeForest Kelley; Apollo astronaut Philip Chapman; special effects master Douglas Trumbull; and others from across the globe on an infinite voyage into interplanetary space.
The capsules include approximately one gram of an individual’s ashes, said Celestis’ president, Colby Youngblood.
“We welcome Larry aboard the Enterprise Flight,” said Charles M. Chafer, Celestis co-founder and CEO. “His life was a testament to living fully, and this final journey will enable his dreams to be shared and celebrated by family and friends.”
There will also be the DNA of three U.S. presidents, including John F. Kennedy, Dwight D Eisenhower, and George Washington, on the spacecraft, a representative of Celestis said.
The Enterprise Flight will also be the first of their deep space missions, but they also offer different types of spacecraft memorials. The other types of flights include a service of a flight that goes briefly into space and then returns, flights that go into orbit for approximately three to five years and disintegrate upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, and flights where remains are sent to the moon.
“It’s really unique,” Youngblood said.
The costs of these different types of memorials range from $3,000 to $13,000, and some of the families choose to forgo a traditional funeral service with these types of memorials. The median cost for a funeral with a viewing and burial is approximately $7,800, according to the National Funeral Directors’ Association.
“It was such a privilege to be a part of the services for Mr. Rab,”said Mark Ely, director and celebration of life planner at one of the Dignity Memorial branches in Dayton. “His family was so amazed that this opportunity existed and that they would be able to honor Larry, his love for travel and space and that he would be able to be a part of this historic mission.”
Larry was a big fan of Star Trek and its creator, Roddenberry, Sharon said. She believed her husband would get enjoyment out of being memorialized in this way.
“I think he would find this fascinating, and I think he would find it hilarious,” Sharon said about Larry. “I think he would totally appreciate that I did it.”
This experience has also brought Sharon back to memories of when they were first married and Larry said if he got the chance to go to space, he would.
“That’s why when this came up...I just went, ‘How perfect, he’d get to go,’” Sharon said.
A portion of his remains will be in a capsule included on the spacecraft, and the remainder of his remains are at Woodland Cemetery, where the remains of his family are also located. He was preceded in death by his parents, Dr. Thomas P. and Patricia S. Rab, and his brother John P. Rab, nephew Geoff Rab, and nephew Clifford Browne. In addition to his wife and his twin brother, Paul, he was also survived by his brother Dr. George Rab of California, sister Nancy Stolz of New Hampshire, and numerous nieces and nephews.
The Enterprise Flight is set to launch in December from Cape Canaveral, Fla., according to Celestis Inc.’s website. The flight will include a rocket that will send some capsules to the moon and a rocket that will send some capsules into deep space into heliocentric orbit around the sun, 330 million kilometers away from Earth, Youngblood said.
“It will be the largest repository of our civilization out in space,” Youngblood said.
The launches are a “sight to behold,” Youngblood said, as the launches are both emotional and celebratory.
“It’s very powerful,” Youngblood said. “When our clients’ families come to the event and they meet other families that are going through the same thing, it’s very rewarding for us.”
Larry’s family will also be going together to see the launch, which will also include a tour of the space center and a memorial service prior to the launch, Celestis said.
“I’m very glad it’s happening. I don’t know that there will ever be closure, but I think it’s so appropriate for him,” Sharon said.