Nichelle Nichols of ‘Star Trek’ Showed America a Different Future & More Breaking News


As a result of her tour, people like Sally Ride, Judith Resnik, Frederick Gregory and Ronald McNair all became astronauts.

(I may have well tried out too, Ms. Nichols, as I grew up loving stars and planets and nebulae, even though I couldn’t see much from my apartment in Brooklyn. But while the body was ready, the calculus was weak. I had to traverse other roads.)

In a 2011 interview with Nichols, the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said that thanks to her efforts, the space shuttle program was the first American astronaut program that better reflected America.

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Yes, the astronauts are the ones who took the tests, trained their bodies, made the sacrifices and flew among the stars. But everything that flies has wind beneath its wings.

Nichols helped provide that wind, first to a television show and a concept that grew into a multimillion-dollar global franchise, and then to the real-life space organization that will maybe, eventually, figure out how to build that fictional Starship Enterprise.