August 15, 2022

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'Star Trek' star Nichelle Nichols has died at the age of 89

‘Star Trek’ star Nichelle Nichols has died at the age of 89

Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed Aura in “Star Trek” in the lead role of black actresses before going on to help recruit people of color and women to NASA in real life, is dead, her representatives confirmed to CBS News. She was 89 years old.

“I am sorry to inform you that a great light in heaven no longer shines on us as it has for many years,” her son, Kyle Johnson, wrote on Nichols’ official Facebook page. Nichols died of natural causes, according to Johnson.

“However, its light, like the ancient galaxies now seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn and be inspired by. It has been a good life and thus a model for all of us,” he wrote.

“My heart is heavy, and my eyes shine like the stars that lie between you now, my best friend,” actor George Takei tweeted on Nickels’ “Star Trek.”

After “Star Trek,” Nichols became a recruiter for NASA, playing a key role in helping recruit people of color and female astronauts.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump and director Todd Thompson, who both served as executive producers of the documentary Women in Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek and the Remaking of NASA, called her story “huge.”

Nichols portrayed USS Enterprise communications officer Lieutenant Nyota Oora in the television series “Star Trek” from 1966-1969. She also reprized her role in six films from the popular science fiction franchise.

Al Hafawa TV premiere
Nichelle Nichols attends the “Art Breakers” premiere on Ovation TV on October 1, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

Araya Diaz/Getty Images To celebrate

Nichols was one of the first black actresses to appear on prime-time television, and she and “Star Trek” made history with their first interracial kiss on television in 1968.

“She was the third highest-ranking member of Space Command,” Crump said.CBS Saturday Morning “in 2021. “I mean, you’re talking about every black boy and girl who runs into the TV to say, ‘Hey, this is a black woman, who’s in charge?'” “

“Star Trek” suffered from poor ratings during its initial show, and according to “CBS Saturday Morning,” Nichols was considering leaving the show after season one to go to Broadway. But then she met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a devout Trekkie, who pleaded with her to stay, saying it was the only show he had seen with his children.

“He said, ‘You don’t understand the impact it’s having, not just on black people, not just on young women, but on everyone,” she said in the documentary.

As “Star Trek” became more famous, NASA members took notice – and they became fans, attending “Star Trek” conventions. Nichols once gave a speech to members of NASA, and Crump said she noticed there were no women or minorities in the audience.

“I said, ‘Where are my people?'” Nichols said in the documentary. “I meant it then and I mean it now.”

The head of NASA was in the audience and took a note, offering her the opportunity to recruit for them. Nichols founded Women in Motion, which travels around the country recruiting women and people of color for NASA.

This effort is paying off. In 1978, NASA recruited 35 people, including for the first time six women and four people of color.

“It might sound a bit tacky, but it felt like my kids,” she said in the documentary “Women in Motion.” “And my heart, it throbbed. And I knew the world would never be the same again. We shall go to great heights—and I believe I have the slightest thing to do with it that makes me know that all good things are possible.”

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