Private space flight company Celestis — which has been sending cremated remains into space since 1994 —will place some of Nichols’ ashes on a United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur rocket as part of an Enterprise flight scheduled later this year from Cape Canaveral, Florida; fittingly, the Enterprise was also the name of the starship that Nichols’ Lieutenant Uhura traveled aboard on Star Trek.
Unlike previous Celestis space funerals, Nichols’ ashes are bound for interplanetary deep space, as the intended destination of the Enterprise mission is even beyond the James Webb telescope, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
“My only regret is that I cannot share this eternal tribute standing beside my mother at the launch,” Nichols’ son Kyle Johnson said. “I know she would be profoundly honored for this unique experience and enthusiastically encourage ALL of her FANS to join us vicariously by contributing your thoughts, affections, memories, NN inspired successes, dreams, and aspirations via email to be launched with her on this flight! WOW!”
Joining Nichols on her voyage to the cosmos: Ashes of fellow Star Trek actor James Doohan (“Scotty”), as well as the series creator Gene Roddenberry and his wife Majel. (Some of Roddenberry’s ashes previously went to space aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1992, shortly after his 1991 death. Another batch of his ashes were also launched as part of a Celestis spacecraft in 1997 that ultimately disintegrated in the atmosphere.)
“We’re very pleased to be fulfilling, with this mission, a promise I made to Majel Barrett Roddenberry in 1997 that one day we would fly her and husband Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry together on a deep space memorial spaceflight,” Celestis CEO Charles M. Chafer said in a statement earlier this year, prior to Nichols’ death.
“The mission is named Enterprise in tribute to them – and also fellow mission participant and beloved actor, James “Scotty” Doohan – as well as the many Star Trek fans who are joining them on this, the 20th Celestis Memorial Spaceflight.”
Nichols died July 31 at the age of 89. In addition to her groundbreaking role on Star Trek, she was also an ambassador for NASA, spearheading an effort to bring more women and minorities into the space program.
“People keep saying, ‘You’ve inspired women of color.’ ” Nichols told StarTrek.com in 2010. “And I say, ‘Yes, Black, white, yellow, brown, red and probably some with green blood and pointy ears!’ Gene’s brilliance was in casting people from all over the Earth, and an alien. It made everyone feel like they belonged. I wasn’t a Black communications officer. I was a communications officer who happened to be from Africa, who happened to have brown skin. So I have had women of all stripes tell me how Uhura inspired them to reach for the stars. I’ve had women who’ve named their children after Uhura, and even after Nichelle.”