NASA: Nichelle Nichols a role model who ‘symbolized to so many what was possible’

NASA praised “Star Trek” actress and former agency recruiter Nichelle Nichols as a “trailblazer and role model who symbolized to so many what was possible” in a statement issued shortly after she died at the age of 89 on Sunday.

Officials tweeted out a photo of Nichols along with the statement, showing a black-and-white image of the actress when she worked for the space agency.

“We celebrate the life of Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek actor, trailblazer, and role model, who symbolized to so many what was possible,” NASA wrote. “She partnered with us to recruit some of the first women and minority astronauts, and inspired generations to reach for the stars.”

Nichols died in Silver City, N.M., after a career that had touched the hearts of many in the U.S. and particularly those in the African American community.

As Nyota Uhura, Nichols played a key character on the Starship Enterprise along with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in the original “Star Trek” show, which ran from 1966 to 1969.

Nichols was one of the first African American actresses to play a major role on television that depicted her as equal to characters of another race, with the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. praising her for championing the Black American on screen.

After “Star Trek” ended, Nichols applied to NASA and was accepted as a recruiter for the federal agency. She focused on recruiting more women and people of color and is credited with bringing in more than 8,000 applications to NASA.

“Star Trek” legends also paid respects to Nichols on Sunday.

Shatner — who shared the first on-screen kiss between a white male and Black female with Nichols as the USS Enterprise Captain James T. Kirk — tweeted that she “played an admirable character that did so much for redefining social issues both here in the US & throughout the world.”

George Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu on the original show, tweeted he “shall have more to say about the trailblazing, incomparable Nichelle Nichols” soon.

“For today, my heart is heavy, my eyes shining like the stars you now rest among, my dearest friend,” he wrote.