Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols Creates a Short Film for NASA to Recruit New Astronauts (1977)

Imag­ine grow­ing up in the late 1960s, wit­ness­ing at an impres­sion­able age the hey­day of the orig­i­nal Star Trek fol­lowed by the real-life moon land­ing. (If you actu­al­ly did grow up in the late 1960s, just remem­ber your child­hood.) How could you not have dreamed of work­ing on some­thing to do with out­er space, or indeed in out­er space itself? It seems that both the pro­mot­ers of NASA and the cre­ators of Star Trek know that both their projects draw from the same well of won­der about the world beyond our plan­et. As we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture, William Shat­ner has nar­rat­ed a doc­u­men­tary on the space shut­tle as well as a Mars land­ing video, and Leonard Nimoy nar­rat­ed a short about NASA’s space­craft Dawn.

Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieu­tenant Uhu­ra in the orig­i­nal series, also did her NASA-pro­mot­ing bit — or per­haps more than her bit — by star­ring in the agen­cy’s 1977 recruit­ment film. In the years since the end of Star Trek, she had already been vol­un­teer­ing with NASA’s push to recruit more women and minori­ties.

“I am going to bring you so many qual­i­fied women and minor­i­ty astro­naut appli­cants for this posi­tion that if you don’t choose one… every­body in the news­pa­pers across the coun­try will know about it,” she has since remem­bered telling NASA at the time. In the event, NASA chose more than a few, includ­ing astro­nauts like Sal­ly Ride, Guion Blu­ford, Judith Resnik, and Ronald McNair.

“I still feel a lit­tle bit like Lieu­tenant Uhu­ra on the star­ship Enter­prise,” Nichols says at the begin­ning of the film. “You know, now there’s a 20th-cen­tu­ry Enter­prise, an actu­al space vehi­cle built by NASA and designed to put us in the busi­ness of space, and not mere­ly space explo­ration.” NASA’s Enter­prise, she explains, is “a space shut­tle built to make reg­u­lar­ly sched­uled runs into space and back, just like a com­mer­cial air­line,” one that “may even be used to build a space sta­tion in orbit around the Earth, and this would require the ser­vices of peo­ple with a vari­ety of skills and qual­i­fi­ca­tions.” At the very end, she empha­sizes a dif­fer­ent sense of vari­ety: “I’m speak­ing to the whole fam­i­ly of humankind, minori­ties and women alike. If you qual­i­fy and would like to be an astro­naut, now is the time. This is your NASA, a space agency embarked on a mis­sion to improve the qual­i­ty of life on plan­et Earth right now” — an even wor­thi­er mis­sion, some might say, than bold­ly going where no man has gone before.

via Boing Boing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Star Trek Celebri­ties William Shat­ner and Wil Wheaton Nar­rate Mars Land­ing Videos for NASA

William Shat­ner Nar­rates Space Shut­tle Doc­u­men­tary

William Shat­ner Puts in a Long Dis­tance Call to Astro­naut Aboard the Inter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion

Leonard Nimoy Nar­rates Short Film About NASA’s Dawn: A Voy­age to the Ori­gins of the Solar Sys­tem

NASA Cre­ates Movie Par­o­dy Posters for Its Expe­di­tion Flights: Down­load Par­o­dies of Metrop­o­lis, The Matrix, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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