Lieutenant Uhura will be seeing the stars one last time. Celestis, Inc.’s Memorial Spaceflights, which allows customized messages, cremated remains, and DNA samples to be sent into space, has announced that some of Nichelle Nichols’ ashes will be on board an upcoming launch.
The actor, who died last month at the age of 89, was best known for playing Nyota Uhura during Star Trek’s original run starting in 1966. Her role was groundbreaking for its portrayal of a Black woman who was not a maid, and Martin Luther King, Jr. famously encouraged her to continue working on the show. Nichols and William Shatner also participated in one of the first interracial kisses on American television.
Uhura’s place on the Enterprise’s bridge paved the way for the present state of the Star Trek franchise, which features Sonequa Martin-Green and Tawny Newsome leading the ensembles of Discovery and Lower Decks. Celia Rose Gooding currently plays Uhura on the prequel series Strange New Worlds. Nichols’ visibility also inspired real-life astronaut Mae Jemison, who became the first Black woman to go to space in 1992.
“Nichelle Nichols was a trailblazing actress, advocate, and dear friend to NASA,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson says in a statement to Celestis, Inc. “At a time when Black women were seldom seen on screen, Nichelle’s portrayal as Nyota Uhura on Star Trek held a mirror up to America that strengthened civil rights. Nichelle’s advocacy transcended television and transformed NASA.”
Nichols’ ashes are set to travel 150 to 300 million kilometers on Celestis, Inc.’s Vulcan rocket, marking the company’s first journey into interplanetary space. The remains of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, his wife and actor Majel Barrett Roddenberry, original Montgomery Scott actor James Doohan, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture visual effects director Douglas Trumbull have been on previous launches.