Actress, singer, and dancer Nichelle Nichols (1932–2022), best known for her portrayal of Lieutenant Nyota Uhura on Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-1969), Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973), and the Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), passed away.

Less well known outside the US is Nichelle Nichols’ long collaboration with NASA. It was thanks to Nichols, who took on the role of ambassador and recruiter for NASA, that the first women and the first black pilots and specialists were recruited into the astronaut corps. Nichelle Nichols helped recruit NASA’s first female astronaut Sally Ride, research astronaut Judith Resnik (yes, her parents are Ukrainian Jews), the first black astronaut Guion Bluford, research astronaut Ronald McNair, and many others. Nichelle Nichols’ collaboration with NASA lasted from 1977 to 2015 and was very effective.

Star Trek

Nyota Uhura is believed to be the first black character to have a lead role on American television. Also, the kiss between Lt. Uhura and Captain Kirk is mistakenly believed to be the first interracial kiss on American TV.

Thank you, Lieutenant Uhura, for being with us.