The ashes of Nichelle Nichols, the actress who played Lieutenant Nyota Uhura in the original Star Trekis sent into space on a rocket that commemorates her and several others Star Trek veterans (through Reuters). Nichols’ son, Kyle Johnson, donated her ashes after she died in July at age 89.
Nichols’ ashes will go to space on a rocket aptly named the Vulcan Centaur, with the commemorative spaceflight company Celestis, which launched the Mission “Enterprise Flight”. There is still no firm date for the shipment, and it will likely depend on the continued development of the United Launch Alliance from the Vulcan missile.
During the mission, Nichols will be accompanied by the remains of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and his wife, Majel Barrett, who starred as the series’ nurse, Christine Chapel. James Doohan, who played the Enterprise’s engineer Scotty, and visual effects artist Douglas Trumbull, known for his work on Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Blade Runnerand more, will also be on board.
When the rocket takes off from Cape Canaveral, it will take more than 200 capsules containing ashes, DNA samples, as well as the names, messages and photos of users from around the world. Celestis will store the capsules in the top stage of the rocket, which will be launched between 150 million and 300 million kilometers into space and orbit the sun.
Nichols was a pioneer in the film industry and became the first black woman to have a major role on television. Her legacy extends beyond the screen as she served as an advocate for NASA to encourage the recruitment of astronauts from underrepresented backgrounds. She is credited with helping the first black man, Colonel Guion Bluford, and the first woman, Sally Ride, get to space.