SEP 02, 2015 07:31 AM PDT

Lt. Uhura Will Fly on a NASA Mission

As if singing on tour with Duke Ellington and being one of the first African American actresses to play a character other than a maid wasn’t enough, Nichelle Nichols can now add the role of NASA crewmember to her resume. Famous for her portrayal of Chief Communications Officer Lt. Uhura of the USS Enterprise on the original Star Trek series, Nichols will soon be a part of a flight mission aboard the aerial observatory known as SOFIA, a research plane operated by NASA.
 Nichelle Nichols, better known as Lt. Uhura is set to fly for NASA
SOFIA stands for Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, and is a modified 747SP aircraft. It carries a high-powered telescope that can see things that ground telescopes cannot always capture. While it doesn’t actually travel into outer space, the SOFIA plane reaches altitudes from about 39,000 feet to 45,000 feet. This allows the plane to get above the water vapor that lingers around the Earth’s atmosphere. This vapor can prevent some telescopes from getting accurate pictures because the water droplets in the vapor can block infrared rays from reaching the ground.
 
The SOFIA project is a joint effort between NASA and German space agency DLR and has been in operation since May of 2014. The plane is based at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California and the team of scientists and researchers that interpret the data is collects operate out of NASA’s Ames Research Center, further north in Mountain View, CA. The plane carries a 2.5 meter gyro-stablized telescope as well as cameras, spectrometers, and a photometer. All of this equipment can be easily changed out and more is expected to be added in 2016.
 
However, the SOFIA plane has never carried a crewmember like Nichols before. At 82 years young, she will be the oldest person to serve aboard the plane, but she’s used to blazing a trail in her career. Her character, Lt. Uhura, was an inspiration to many and the inclusion of woman of color in a role like hers was groundbreaking when the series aired in the 1960s. In an interview with astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson Nichols credits civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. with encouraging her to stay on the show when she wanted to leave after the first season. Just a day after telling Gene Roddenberry that she wanted to leave the show, she met Dr. King at a fundraiser. He told her what a big fan he was and how important her role was to so many and the following week she decided to stay with the show after all.
 
Nichols suffered a small stroke in early June 2015, but is feeling more than up to the task of being aboard the NASA flight. In interviews she has stated that being selected to ride to the stratosphere is a “Dream come true.” Her flight is scheduled for September 15, 2015. Trekkies and others can follow the SOFIA flights on Twitter   Keeping up with Ms. Nichols might be a little harder since she has no plans to slow down anytime soon. Check out her adventures on her Facebook page and see how she flies and watch the video below for more information.

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
OCT 14, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 14, 2019
Here's Why Stars Aren't Visible in Most Space Photos
When you look up at the night sky, you’ll often see a bevy of stars looking back down at you. But have you ever noticed that the vast majority of ima...
OCT 14, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
OCT 14, 2019
A Changed Game Plan for the Dark Matter Hunt
Constituting 27% of the total matter-energy continuum in our universe, dark matter is a hypothetic entity that is thought to be abundant, capable of influencing ordinary matter through gravit...
OCT 14, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 14, 2019
NASA Will Send a Drone to Titan in Search of Alien Life
Researchers have been teasing the concept of sending a life-sniffing drone to Saturn’s moon Titan for what seems like forever, and now, it appears th...
OCT 14, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 14, 2019
Watch SpaceX Launch a Used Falcon 9 for the Third and Final Time
SpaceX launched one of its tried and true Falcon 9 rockets on Tuesday in a mission that the commercial space company dubbed AMOS-17. The rocket’s nin...
OCT 14, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
OCT 14, 2019
Why Does a Solar Cycle Last for 11 Years? Scientists Might Have Found the Answer
About every 11 years our Sun undergoes a solar cycle, also known as the solar magnetic activity cycle. Since its first discovery in the mid-19th-century, a...
OCT 14, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 14, 2019
Woman-Only Spacewalk Will Transpire October 21st, NASA Says
NASA was expected to orchestrate the world’s first all-female spacewalk at the International Space Station earlier this year, but was unfortunately u...
Loading Comments...