Nichelle Nichols, aka the original Uhura from Star Trek, is going on a NASA mission. First mentioned in a Reddit AMA and then clarified in a post on Starpower, Uhura will be "among the first non-essential personnel to experience NASA's newest telescope: SOFIA."
It isn't, however, 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 on September 15th. 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 according to Nichols, she was a passenger on that plane, too.
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. During a recent flight near New Zealand, SOFIA was able to observe Pluto passing in front of a star. The reflecting telescope, housed in the aircraft's fuselage, is over 8 feet in diameter.
But what about actually getting to space? As far as I can tell, no Star Trek or Star Wars alumni have managed to venture out of our orbit. Is there a spacefaring body that can fix this glaring oversight in our species' history? Anyone?
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