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June 12, 2010

Salem man to send his friend's ashes into space

SALEM — Robert DeHate will pay tribute today to a close friend who died of cancer, and he will do it in his own special way. He will launch him into space.

Well, technically, the rocket carrying Paul Robinson's ashes will not reach outer space, but it is scheduled to soar more than 7,000 feet above the California desert.

It should be quite a show.

DeHate's mile-high memorial has attracted the attention of The Discovery Channel, which is sending a crew to Lucerne Dry Lake in California to film the launch, one of many blastoffs it will shoot during LDRS 29, a weeklong event staged by the Tripoli Rocketry Association, a national amateur rocket organization.

LDRS, by the way, is the group's tongue-in-cheek title for the annual extravaganza: Large and Dangerous Rocket Ships.

DeHate, 40, an amateur model rocketeer and Salem resident, has done something special this year. He built a 17-foot-tall replica of a U.S. government Patriot missile in the basement of his Jefferson Avenue home and assembled it in his backyard. It was packed in a crate that weighed 550 pounds and shipped out last week by truck.

He did all that without a neighbor or police officer, not to mention Homeland Security, banging on his door and asking what the heck he was doing building a model rocket that looks like the real thing.

"I've had people stop and ask me about them," said DeHate, who works for a Peabody company that makes scanning electron microscopes. "But they say, 'Wow, that's interesting.' Nobody's ever been concerned. ... If you're going to do something clandestine, you're not going to do it in your own backyard."

The replica Patriot is the biggest rocket DeHate has ever made.

"He was larger than life, so the rocket had to be larger than life," DeHate said of Robinson, a New Hampshire resident who owned a company that made rocket motors. DeHate called Robinson his "motor mentor," or the person who taught him all about rocket motor technology.

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