Another Star Trek Icon Is Going to Space

The remains of Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols will be sent to space via the new Vulcan Centaur Rocket.

By Lyndon Nicholas | Updated

nichelle nichols
Nichelle Nichols

As space exploration becomes more accessible, the line between science fiction and lived reality is becoming more blurred. One of the stars from the classic science fiction franchise Star Trek will soon be heading to the stars. According to a recent post from the United Launch Alliance website, the commercial space voyage provider is eyeing a May launch of its newest rocket which will include the remains of Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols.

The United Launch Alliance has announced that May will be the first launch of The Vulcan Centaur Rocket. The Vulcan Centaur is slated to replace the company’s previous models, the Atlas V and Delta IV. It is over 200 feet tall and is reported to be capable of carrying up to 60,000 pounds into low-Earth orbit. 

The rocket will be carrying a number of items including the Astrobotics Technology Peregrine Lunar Lander. It will also be carrying Project Kuiper, prototype broadband satellites for Amazon that the company has said will test the feasibility of a constellation of satellites to create a network that provides high-speed global Internet connection to underserved communities across the globe.

Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols will not be the only ashes aboard the ship and exploring space. Hers will be one of a collection of about 150 capsules that will be launched on the ship, including ashes from a number of other cast members and Star Trek’s creator. The capsules also include DNA from presidents George Washington, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. 

The United Launch Alliance is a service provider for American spacecraft headed by CEO Tory Bruno. Founded in 2006, the company has had a 100% mission success rate over the course of its 150 consecutive launches thus far. The mission will take off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Station on May 4 2023, a fitting date, given its unofficial status as an annual celebration of the star wars franchise. 

nichelle nichols

Nichelle Nichols is a Star Trek icon. She is best known for her portrayal of bridge officer Nyota Uhura in Star Trek and its film sequels. Before her role in Star Trek, Nichelle Nichols was a prominent singer and dancer, who’d worked with music legends Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton.

Nichols was one of the first Black women to feature in a major television series. She made television history when she was involved in what is often cited as the first interracial kiss ever to be aired on US television during the episode “Plato’s Stepchildren” which aired on November 22nd, 1968. The kiss was between Nichols and white actor William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk and broke barriers for what could be portrayed on screen.

Outside of her work in Star Trek, Nichols became an ambassador for NASA and was instrumental in recruiting some of the first women and ethnic minority astronauts into the program. Astronaut Mae Jemison, the first black woman to ever travel into space, cited Nichelle Nichols Uhura as an inspiration for her desire to become an astronaut.

Star Trek would not be the same without Nichelle Nichols, who in addition to the original series also starred in Star Trek: The Animated Series, and six Star Trek films. Nichelle Nichols’ played an instrumental role in advancing the portrayal of black women and black people on popular television, and her role was praised by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for its importance for civil rights. Her work in television, film, and advancement of the space program made her a monumental figure for the Star Trek franchise and for the US space program, and her inclusion in this mission is fitting for a woman of her influence.