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June 12, 2010

Salem man to send his friend's ashes into space

(Continued)

The idea for this celestial tribute was born last year when DeHate went to Florida to visit his terminally ill friend, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last summer and died in October.

"He asked me before he passed away to fly him at this launch," DeHate said. "He said he wanted it to be a big party to celebrate his life."

The Discovery Channel contacted the Tripoli Rocketry Association looking for interesting rockets, but also rockets with stories. They liked DeHate's story so much they sent him a camera and asked him to film himself assembling the rocket at home, which he did about two weeks ago.

Although this weekend is special, it is nothing out of the ordinary.

DeHate has been sending rockets skyward since 1997, when he picked up a footlong rocket at Dave's Hobby Shop in Beverly and set it off at Peabody High School. DeHate calls himself a "born-again rocketeer," or someone who launched rockets as a kid and picked the hobby up again as an adult.

"I was looking for something that me and my wife could do together," he said. "We picked out two kits to make together. I thought it was something we could start together and see how that went. She never really finished the first one."

Over the years, the rockets got more technical and more powerful. The highest he has ever shot a rocket is 85,000 feet — or more than 16 miles up. To put that in perspective, that's more than twice the altitude of the average commercial jet flight.

The rocket he will launch today is a "full-scale Patriot" made from materials purchased at local boat stores and The Home Depot. It consists of fiberglass, epoxy glue, carbon fiber, pink foam insulation, plywood, stainless-steel bolts and steel strapping.

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