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Nichelle Nichols' ashes set for trek to the stars

The memorial 'Enterprise Flight' later this year will also include ashes from other Star Trek alumni

Late actress Nichelle Nichols, who for 25 years portrayed the USS Enterprise's communications officer Uhura, is set to be memorialized among the stars later this year.

A portion of Nichols' ashes will lift off – along with those of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, his wife and multi-role Star Trek actress Majel Barrett Roddenberry, and James Doohan, who portrayed Enterprise chief engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott – sometime later this year.

Nichols, who passed away at the age of 89 in late July, is the latest Trek alum to join the aptly named "Enterprise Flight" being launched by memorial spaceflight company Celestis. Special effects master Douglas Trumbull, Apollo 14 astronaut Phil Chapman, and Project Mercury astronaut L Gordon Cooper Jr will also be onboard the rocket, which also bears an aptly Trek-inspired name: Vulcan. 

Speaking to the LA Times, Nichols' son, Kyle Johnson, said a spaceflight seemed like an appropriate memorial for his mother, who was an early pioneer in Black media representation through her role in Star Trek. "It's where she belongs," Johnson told the Times.

Nichols had initially considered leaving Star Trek after the first season, citing frustration with the show and a desire to return to Broadway, where she had originally intended to make a career. She famously changed her mind after an encounter with Dr Martin Luther King, who convinced her not to leave the role.

"You have the first important non-traditional role, non-stereotypical role … You are changing the minds of people across the world, because for the first time, through you, we see ourselves and what can be," Nichols recalled King telling her.

After Star Trek ended, Nichols continued to be involved with promoting equality in space exploration through her work with NASA, which credits her with helping to recruit some of the agency's first women and minority astronauts. 

The Enterprise Flight will launch in conjunction with United Launch Alliance, maker of the Vulcan rocket. Celestis is encouraging Star Trek fans to pen tribute messages for the flight, which will be included in the memorial capsule. ®

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