Uhura, whose name comes from ‘uhuru’, the Swahili word (African) for ‘freedom’, was fourth in command on the Starship Enterprise, which made her one of the first prominent black female characters in a major TV show. Asteroid 68410 Nichols is named in her honor.
The TV series led toa NASA advisor, recruiting the first women and minority astronauts for its Space Shuttle program.
Originally they wanted Uhura to kiss Leonard Nimoy’s Mr Spock instead. Since Spock was half-man, half-Vulcan, that would have made it American TV’s first interspecies kiss! But Bill Shatner said, ‘Hell no, if anybody’s going to kiss Uhura, Kirk is!’
The program was a success.
Among those recruited were Dr. Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut,
An enthusiastic advocate of space exploration, Nichols has served since the mid-1980s on the Board of Governors of the National Space Society, a nonprofit, educational space advocacy organization founded by
Dr. Wernher von Braun.
Always interested in space travel, Nichols flew aboard NASA’s C-141 Astronomy Observatory, which analyzed the atmospheres of Mars and Saturn on an eight-hour, high-altitude mission. She was also a special guest at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, on July 17, 1976, to view the Viking 1soft landing on Mars. Along with the other cast members from the original Star Trek series, she attended the christening of the first space shuttle, Enterprise, at the North American Rockwell assembly facility in Palmdale, California.
Nichelle Nichols is an American actress, singer and voice artist. She sang with Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton before turning to acting. Her most famous role is that of communications officer Lieutenant Uhura aboard the USS Enterprise in the popular Star Trek television series (1966–1969), as well as the succeeding motion pictures, where her character was eventually promoted in Starfleet to the rank of commander. Multiple novel series have stated that she rose to at least Captain.
Nichols’ Star Trek character, one of the first African American female characters on American television not portrayed as a servant, was groundbreaking in U.S. society at the time. Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. personally praised her work on the show and asked her to remain when she considered leaving the series.
“Who knew that Nichelle Nichols sizzled in the local cabaret scene before taking up her earpiece on the star-ship Enterprise.
Nichelle Nichols discusses how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was a fan of Star Trek and convinced her to remain on the series.