As Lieutenant Uhurua on Star Trek: The Original Series, actress Nichelle Nichols inspired a generation as one of the first television stars of African descent to to be featured in a non-menial role. This week, the icon joined NASA aboard the telescope-bearing shuttle SOFIA — the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy — for a space expedition to explore the formation of massive stars and evolution of planetary construction material. The incredible journey, made by Nichols, her 25 teammates, and some adorable tribbles (a fluffy fictional alien species that Star Trek fans will remember) was live on Twitter, where the actress called the mission “a dream.” She’s no stranger to such adventures, however: four decades ago, Nichols was a part of the first research team aboard NASA’s C-141 Astronomy Observatory. She was also employed by NASA in the 1970’s and 1980’s to recruit new astronauts, including Sally Ride (the first female astronaut) and Guion Bluford (the first African-American astronaut).
Read the full story at iO9.