Remains of ‘Star Trek’ Actress Nichelle Nichols Goes to Space

Remains of ‘Star Trek’ Actress Nichelle Nichols Goes to Space

Nichelle Nichols appears in an episode of the original

Nichelle Nichols appears in an episode of the original “Star Trek” in the late ’60s. (Photo: Everett Collection)

Nichelle Nichols, the late barrier-breaking actress who played Lieutenant Uhura in the TV original Star Trek and beyond, will be part of an upcoming mission to space.

Nichols died in July at age 89, but spaceflight company Celestis Inc. will launch a portion of his cremated ashes and a sample of his DNA some 90 to 190 million miles into space on its Enterprise flight, the company announced Thursday. It is currently scheduled to depart later this year from Cape Canaveral, Florida and leave the Earth-Moon system. According to a press release, Vulcan will place its Peregrine lunar module “on a trajectory for its encounter with the Moon” and “the upper stage of Centaur will continue into deep space, entering an orbit around the Sun, becoming the humanity’s farthest-reaching outpost, which will be renamed the Enterprise Station.”

The DNA of Nichols’ adult son, actor Kyle Johnson, will also make the trip. Indeed, more than 200 flight pods with ashes, DNA and messages from loved ones will be included in the flight, which will launch atop the United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket. Others who worked with Nichols on the science fiction phenomenon and have since died will also be part of the mission: creator Gene Roddenberry and his wife, actress Majel Barrett Roddenberry; actor James Doohan, who played Scotty in the series and films; and visual effects artist Douglas Trumbull, who was nominated for an Oscar for his work in 1979 Star Trek: The Movie.

Prior to release, Nichols’ many fans can submit free tributes to her via the Celestis website. A digitized version of them will be taken as cargo.

Nichelle Nichols arrives for the CBS premiere

Nichelle Nichols arrives for the September 19, 2017, premiere of CBS’ “Star Trek: Discovery” at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, California (Photo: MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)

“My only regret is not being able to share this timeless tribute alongside my mother at the launch,” Johnson told Celestis. “I know she would be deeply honored by this unique experience and would enthusiastically encourage ALL her FANS to join us indirectly, contributing their thoughts, affections, memories, NN-inspired successes, dreams and aspirations via email to be launched with her on this flight. ! WOW!”

Nichols was one of the first black women to star in a major TV show when Star Trek first aired in 1966. Its prime-time presence was so important that Martin Luther King Jr. asked her to stay when they met at an NAACP event after that first season. In fact, she had planned to leave TV for the stage, but reconsidered after talking to the civil rights leader.

“He told me he was my biggest fan,” Nichols recalled in the 2018 documentary From the bridge. “And he asked me to stay on the show – that I was a role model for children and black women across America… He told me I couldn’t leave: that I was part of history.”

King reportedly said that Nichols and her character portrayed black people “as we should be seen every day, as smart, quality, beautiful people who can sing and dance and who can go into space, who are teachers, lawyers.” Would a black person or a woman replace her?

Not only did she stay on the show, Nichols ended up working with NASA to help recruit women and people of color to apply.

The announcement of the space launch containing his remains was accompanied by news that the Nichols family established the Nichelle Nichols Foundation to “inspire the next generation to point to the stars and bring us closer to Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future.”

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