Ashes and DNA of the late Nichelle Nichols are set to reach the final frontier for an “Enterprise memorial mission” that’s out of this world. The trailblazing actress who rose to prominence portraying Lt. Nyota Uhura on the original “Star Trek” died in July in Silver City, New Mexico. She was 89 years old.
According to Space.com, the space advocate was selected by Houston-based company Celestis, which has been making it possible to fly its customers’ cremated remains for a quarter-century, for its first-ever “Enterprise Flight.”
A gram of Nichols’ ashes, plus some of her DNA samples to be placed among the secondary payloads for United Launch Alliance’s first Vulcan Centaur mission, set for no earlier than December.
“I’m sure she would have much preferred to go on the shuttle, but this was a pretty close second,” her son, Kyle Johnson said in a statement. His DNA will also be taking the unique trip with his mother.
“I was kind of in a state of shock, alternately crying my eyes out or feeling kind of numb,” Johnson said of his mother’s inclusion in the Trek-themed memorial mission. “And then we were contacted by Charlie and the crew, and informed of this and invited to participate. The timing could not have been better, and it was a really amazing thing to contemplate.”
Nichols was a Black woman television pioneer in the 1960s for her prominent role in ”Star Trek.” Between 1977 and 2015, she served as NASA’s recruiter-in-chief and spokesperson to encourage more women to join the organization. Her efforts ultimately boosted NASA’s female astronaut candidates from 100 to 1,649 and the number of minority recruits from 35 to over 1,000.
Nichols and Johnson’s samples are scheduled to fly past the moon, along with the ashes of other deceased Star Trek pioneers such as James Doohan, who portrayed Scotty; Majel Barrett Roddenberry, who played Nurse Chapel; the TV series creator Gene Roddenberry; and visual effects head Douglas Trumbull.