*”Star Trek” icon Nichelle Nichols revealed Monday during a Reddit AMA that she will be involved in an upcoming NASA mission. She will be “among the first non-essential personnel to experience NASA’s newest telescope: SOFIA,” MSN reports.
“In September, I’m traveling on a NASA SOFIA flight, a second generation Airborn Observatory, which I am honored to have been invited too,” Nichols told fans before her “Ask Me Anything” began.
The flight isn’t a mission into space: SOFIA (“Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy”) is built into a Boeing 747, which will take off from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California according to ABCNews. SOFIA is a second-generation airborne observatory and a joint project between NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The first generation model originally flew in 1977, and Nichols was a passenger on that plane too.
“SOFIA does not, sadly, fly into space. 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 airborn observatory, back in 1977. It’s an amazing experience, you get a totally different perspective than from earth,” she wrote, adding, ”I do hope someone gets some great pictures.”
SOFIA was created to observe infrared energy in the universe, which enables it to study everything from star births to black holes, including nebulae, solar systems, comets, and asteroids, reports MSN.com.
Nichols’ “Star Trek” character, was one of the first African-American female characters on American television not portrayed as a servant. Her character was groundbreaking at the time. Martin Luther King, Jr. personally praised her work on the show and asked her to remain when she considered leaving the series.
During her Reddit chat, Nichols was asked about her run on the series, which began almost 50 years ago:
“I loved the whole show, from when I left to the studio to when I got home, and everything in between. My favorite episodes were anytime Uhura got to go to the planet,” she said. “I fought for that, the person who knows the planet and the people better than all of you is the communication officer! They don’t need to communicate to me up on the ship, I’ve got the communicator right here.”
On whether she would ever appear in another movie, Nichelle said, “Of course! It would have to be a very specific part, and I’d have to agree with the role. I can’t imagine being completely OK with the ‘Star Trek’ story without Gene, however,” she wrote.