NIchelle Nichols’ Remains Set to Be Sent to Their Final Destination

Nichelle Nichols flashing the Vulcan greeting

Araya Diaz/Getty Images for Ovation Nichelle Nichols attends the Ovation TV premiere screening of "Art Breakers" on October 1, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

In July 2022, “Star Trek” alum Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed communications officer Lieutenant Nyota Uhura and was suffering from dementia, passed away. While not unexpected, the news was heartbreaking to “Trek” fans and celebrities alike. Many people, from United States President Joe Biden to Celia Rose Gooding, the third actress to portray the adult Uhura in the franchise, Tweeted about what the trailblazing performer’s death meant to them.

Now, nearly a month later, we’ve learned the fate of Nichols’ remains, and it’s about as “Star Trek” as you can get!

From Actress to Space Advocate

Nichols’ time on “Star Trek” filled her with a sense of responsibility and an interest in America’s space program. In the 1970s, she partnered with NASA to recruit women and people of color for the astronaut program. Until that time, only white men had gone to space. Nichols was determined to change that, and by the end of her four month recruitment drive, she had succeeded.

So, as the first black person to have an important job on a starship AND a woman who had an effect on real-world space travel, it seems only fitting that her final resting place will be among the stars.

As reported by Universe Today, Nichols’ ashes and some of her DNA will be boarding a space craft in December 2022 destined for the far reaches of space. The arrangements are being made by Celestis, a company that offers “a uniquely compelling memorial experience.” Using their new Voyager Service, Nichols’ remains will be blasting off in their own flight capsule as a “secondary payload” to a primary space mission.

The name “Voyager” carries a “Star Trek” connotation, as the eponymous starship from “Star Trek: Voyager,” whose crew found themselves stranded in the Delta Quadrant, 70 years from home. But the “Trekiness” of this mission doesn’t stop there. TMZ reports that the mission that will carry Celstis’ Voyager will be the United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur mission. Vulcans, one may recall, are a major alien race in the “Star Trek” universe.

ULA is a company formed by partners Lockheed Martin Space and Boeing Defense, Space & Security to provide expendable launch vehicles to government organizations. The Vulcan Centaur’s primary payload will be Astrobotic Technology’s Peregrine lunar lander, whose job it will be to search for NASA’s future landing sites. After dropping the Peregrine off on the moon, Vulcan Centaur will keep going, Celestis’ Voyager and Nichols’ remains in tow.

Final Destination

Nichols isn’t the only “Trek” luminary to make a posthumous trip into space. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the franchise, died in 1991 and a year later his ashes were flown into space on the Space Shuttle Columbia. Then, in 1997, Celestis sent a few grams of his cremated remains into Earth’s orbit. The craft’s orbit deteriorated five years later and it disintegrated in the planet’s atmosphere.

Likewise, after his death in 2005, a portion of the ashes of actor James Doohan, who played “Scotty” in the original series of “Star Trek,” went on a four-minute suborbital flight on the SpaceLoft XL rocket. And in 2008, astronaut Richard Garriott smuggled some of Doohan’s remains aboard the International Space Station and hid them under the floorboards of the Columbus module, where they remain today.

Nichols’ ashes will be joined by the remains of both Roddenberry and Doohan, as well as Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, wife of Gene and portrayer of Nurse Chapel in “Star Trek” and “Star Trek: The Animated Series,” Lwaxana Troi in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, ” and the computer voice in the first six iterations of the franchise. Barrett-Roddenberry died in 2008.

Dubbed the “Enterprise Flight” for obvious reasons, this first Voyager mission will continue past the moon with the Vulcan Centaur rocket, and assume a “graveyard orbit” around the sun, a stellar final resting place for Nichols and her other “Trek” cohorts.

“The moon’s a window to Heaven,” Nyota Uhura sings in “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.” “It’s there that I want to go.” In her lifetime, Nichelle Nichols never ventured into space. Now she’ll briefly visit that “window to Heaven” and then move beyond it, going where no one has gone before, the final frontier and her final resting place merging into one. For a space advocate who not only saw positive changes in NASA but instigated them, there can be no more fitting ultimate destination.