Her work as Lt. Uhura in the 1966-1969 series earned Nichols a lasting place of honour among the series’ fanatical admirers, known as Trekkers and Trekkies. It also garnered her acclaim for overcoming prejudices that had limited Black women to playing roles as maids, and it featured an unprecedented interracial onscreen kiss with co-star William Shatner.
After the original Star Trek was cancelled, Nichols decided to volunteer for a NASA special project to hire minority and female astronauts. She started her endeavour by forging a collaboration between NASA and Women in Motion, a company she helped establish.
Also read: Who was Nichelle Nichols?
The programme was a big hit. Dr. Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut, and US Air Force Colonel Guion Bluford, the first African-American astronaut, were amongst the recruited, as were Dr. Judith Resnik and Dr. Ronald McNair, who both flew successful launches during the Space Shuttle programme before being killed in January 28, 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.
Former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a member of four shuttle flights, former deputy administrator Frederick D. Gregory, a participant of three space missions, and former deputy administrator Lori Garver were also recruited. Beginning in the mid-1980s, Nichols, an avid advocate of space research, was on the board of governors of the National Space Institute (today’s National Space Society).
“We celebrate the life of Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek actor, trailblazer, and role model, who symbolized to so many what was possible. She partnered with us to recruit some of the first women and minority astronauts, and inspired generations to reach for the stars,” a tweet from NASA’s official ID read.
Woman in Motion, a documentary about Nichols’ life, primarily focuses on her involvement with NASA.