Ashes Of ‘Star Trek’ Actress Nichelle Nichols Will Launch Into Deep Space

Ashes Of ‘Star Trek’ Actress Nichelle Nichols Will Launch Into Deep Space

The ashes of Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Nyota Uhura in the original “Star Trek” television series and died last month at the age of 89, will rest among the stars after launching into deep space aboard a rocket later this year from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Celestis, Inc, a company that conducts space burials by sending cremated human remains into the cosmos, said Thursday that a symbolic portion of Nichols’ ashes and a DNA sample would travel between 150 million to 300 million kilometers on board the Vulcan rocket from United Launch Alliance.

“We are truly honored to add a legendary actress, activist, and educator to the Enterprise Flight manifest,” Charles M. Chafer, Co-Founder and CEO of Celestis, Inc., said. “Now our Enterprise Flight will have on board the person who most completely embodied the vision of Star Trek as a diverse, inclusive, and exploring universe.”

On a mission to well beyond the Earth-Moon system into interplanetary space, Nichol’s remains joins 200 flight capsules containing ashes, DNA samples, and messages of greetings from other participants, which includes a “once-in-lifetime” Star Trek reunion flight with the show’s creator Gene Roddenberry, his wife and “First Lady of Star Trek” Majel Barrett Roddenberry, beloved Star Trek actor James “Scotty” Doohan, and VFX maestro and Hollywood icon Douglas Trumbull.

After lift-off, Vulcan will first set Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander on a trajectory to rendezvous with the Moon before entering an orbit around the Sun, becoming humanity’s furthermost reaching outpost, which will then be renamed the Enterprise Station.

Kyle Johnson, Nichols’ son, said he would submit his DNA to allow him to take the journey with his mother.

“My only regret is that I cannot share this eternal tribute standing beside my mother at the launch,” Johnson said, adding that she would be “profoundly honored” for the unique experience.

He encouraged her fans to join the family vicariously by contributing their thoughts, affections, and memories through email to be launched with her on this flight.

Nichols became the first black woman to play a major role in a television series. She planned to leave after the show’s first season ended in 1966 but ultimately stayed after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. helped change her mind.

At the height of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s, Nichols’ performance as the communications officer aboard Star Trek’s USS Enterprise paved the way and broke barriers for black women in Hollywood and on network television.

After the original series concluded in 1969, Nichols’ worldwide influence and admiration from fans gained the attention of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

NASA officials appointed Nichols as the administration’s recruiter in chief and spokesperson “to bridge the gap between their initial responses for mission specialists and the overwhelming results achieved in female and minority candidates for the Space Shuttle, current, and future space flight programs.”

“Nichelle Nichols was a trailblazing actress, advocate, and dear friend to NASA.” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said shortly after the actress passed away. “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.”

Nelson said Nichols’ “advocacy transcended television and transformed NASA.”

“Nichelle’s mission is NASA’s mission,” Nelson added.

The Enterprise Flight website where fans can include a message to float in space with Nichols remains includes a quote from her before her passing.

“Star Trek represented, and still does represent, the future we can have, a future that is beyond the petty squabbles we are dealing with here on Earth, now as much as ever, and we are able to devote ourselves to the betterment of all humankind by doing what we do so well: explore,” Nichols said. “This kind of a future isn’t impossible – and we need to all rethink our priorities to really bring that vision to life.”

Ryan Saavedra contributed to this report.