Nichelle Nichols, ‘Star Trek’s’ Uhura, To Fly On NASA Mission

Nichelle Nichols, the actress famed for playing Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek series, revealed in a Reddit AMA on Thursday that she will be flying aboard NASA’s SOFIA space telescope when it takes to the sky in September.

The telescope is housed in a modified 747, according to the Mirror, which flies in the stratosphere, roughly 50,000 feet above the surface of the Earth. At this altitude, NASA is able to capture images from a completely different perspective than that available from the ground. Surprisingly, it won’t be the first time that Nichols has joined just such a mission.

“SOFIA does not, sadly, fly into space,” she noted. “It’s an airborne observatory, a massive telescope mounted inside a 747 flying as high as is possible. I was on a similar flight, the first airborne observatory, back in 1977. It’s an amazing experience, you get a totally different perspective than from earth. I do hope someone gets some great pictures.”

The announcement comes just months after Nichols, 82, suffered a mild stroke, as the Inquisitr previously reported. The actress was hospitalized in early June, but the damage from the stroke was found to be minor.

Elsewhere during the AMA, Nichols revisited the often-told story of how none other than Dr. Martin Luther King convinced her to continue with Star Trek. As USA Today reports, the actress pointed out that the story has been confused over the years, but that the civil rights leader did indeed ask her to remain as Uhura.

“Dr. Martin Luther King, quite some time after I’d first met him, approached me and said something along the lines of ‘Nichelle, whether you like it or not, you have become an symbol [sic]. If you leave, they can replace you with a blonde-haired white girl, and it will be like you were never there. What you’ve accomplished, for all of us, will only be real if you stay.’ That got me thinking about how it would look for fans of color around the country if they saw me leave. I saw that this was bigger than just me.”

In addition to portraying Lt. Uhura for more than 25 years, Nichelle Nichols has also served as a NASA ambassador ever since taking on the role in the 1960s.

[Photo by Jemal Countess / Getty Images]