In her role as communications officer Lt. Uhura aboard the USS Enterprise in the original Star Trek television series and feature films, Nichelle Nichols was a pioneer of sorts for women in space – at least fictionally.
Sally Ride, who died this week of pancreatic cancer, was the real deal as the first US woman in space. It was not widely known until her death that she was a lesbian who is survived by her female partner of 27 years.
Nichols has taken to Twitter to pay tribute to Ride who the actress knew through her involvement with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
‘My heart aches right now,’ she wrote. ‘Sally was one of my first and biggest achievements. She once thanked me for my recruitment efforts while under contract to NASA, saying ‘If it hadn’t been for you I might not be here.’
NASA had asked Nichols to help them find the first qualified women and minorities to join the then all white male astronaut corps.
‘One of the first that my company was able to reach was a beautiful, young, brilliant woman named Sally Ride,’ Nichols remembered. ‘She not only joined the astronaut corps – she revolutionized it by blazing the trail that so many female astronauts followed. She became MY inspiration.’
She added: ‘Sally carved out her own place in history as the first American woman in space, but she was much more than that. She was a symbol for all of the little girls that needed to see what was achievable if you worked hard and studied hard. Sally was a physicist and had a love for the Sciences – a field of study that we should all encourage young people to follow.’