‘Star Trek’ legend Nichelle Nichols moved one step closer to her iconic role of Uhura on Tuesday when she flew aboard NASA’s SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. The science center is built aboard a modified Boeing 747, and is the world’s biggest flying observatory, boasting a telescope that views the skies through an open door in the aircraft.
Nichols even participated in a Twitter Q&A during the flight, discussing details about the tech of the telescope and the craft itself, noting that the cabin was pressurized so they didn’t notice altitude changes even though the observatory door is open at 37,000 feet, and answering a fan who asked if she planned to taunt William Shatner about being closer to space than he was. (“I sure am!”)
She was also asked a question near and dear to most geek girls’ hearts concerning how to get more females and people of color involved in STEM careers.
“I think science has to be taught in schools as an exciting topic to children so that they can become more engaged as adults,” she replied.
The SOFIA flight is the culmination of a decades-long partnership with NASA, since Nichols has been active in encouraging minorities to be part of the organization’s space program. Her work both on and off the screen helped two women pioneers, Sally Ride and Mae Jemison, achieve their dreams of going into space. When asked if her ground-breaking role on ‘Star Trek’ sparked her interest in space travel, she replied that she’s always had a passion for space. Here’s wishing she has many more years of sharing that passion with generations to come.