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The ashes of late 'Star Trek' icon Nichelle Nichols to be sent into outer space
The aptly-named "Enterprise" flight will also include the remains of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.
A portion of the cremated remains of late Star Trek cast member Nichelle Nichols will be launched out of Earth's atmosphere and into deep space as part of an upcoming mission conducted by Celestis. Founded almost 30 years ago, it is the only company in existence with approval from NASA to carry out what it calls "memorial spaceflights."
The cosmic undertaking — aptly dubbed The Enterprise Flight — is scheduled to take place at Cape Canaveral, Florida sometime in late 2022. The ashes of Star Trek creator, Gene Rodenberry; his wife, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry; and another member of The Original Series, James Doohan — the first actor to play the character of Montgomery "Scotty" Scott — will also be aboard the United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur rocket. Equipped with a record of the human genome, individual DNA samples, and an expansive archive of text and images, the vessel's goal is to travel beyond the James Webb telescope and boldly establish humanity's first outpost in the farthermost regions of our solar system. In other words, the first step towards Mr. Rodenberry's utopian dream of a universe bonded as one.
“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 co-founder and CEO Charles M. Chafer, remarked earlier this year. “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. We look forward to launching this historic mission on a rocket named Vulcan.”
“We are honored that Celestis has selected ULA to launch this important mission,” added ULA President and CEO, Tory Bruno. “What a fitting tribute to the Roddenberry family and the Star Trek fans to be a part of the maiden flight of Vulcan, our next-generation rocket. ULA has a deep history with launching critical missions in support of national defense for our nation, so we are deeply humbled that many veterans also will be flying on this mission. It is an amazing recognition of their service and sacrifice to our country from their loved ones.”
Nichols, who famously broke down racial barriers on television via the role of Lt. Uhura, passed away in late July at the age of 89 from natural causes.
"I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years," the actor's son, Kyle Johnson, wrote on Instagram, confirming the unfortunate news. "Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration. Hers was a life well-lived and as such, a model for us all. I, and the rest of our family, would appreciate your patience and forbearance as we grieve her loss until we can recover sufficiently to speak further. Her services will be for family members and the closest of her friends and we request that her and our privacy be respected. Live Long and Prosper."
Fans can submit tribute messages to Nichols for the Enterprise Flight, which already has epitaphs from Trek veterans like William Shatner (he became the oldest living space traveler in history last fall at the age of 90), George Takei, Walter Koenig, Adam Nimoy, LeVar Burton, J.J. Abrams, Kate Mulgrew, and Celia Rose Gooding.