90.7 WMFE and 89.5 WMFV are Central Florida's primary provider of NPR programming and Classical Music. Part of the community since 1965, providing quality national and local news and programming. We inspire and empower all Central Floridians to discover, grow and engage within and beyond their world.
Support for 90.7 WMFE is provided by

How Nichelle Nichols’ NASA Recruitment Drive Replicated Star Trek’s Diversity


Play Audio

Todd Thompson. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE


Nichelle Nichols played communications officer Lt. Uhura on the groundbreaking TV series Star Trek. When NASA asked her to help recruit a new generation of astronauts for the shuttle program, Nichols broke new ground with her efforts to reach out to women and minorities.

Her story is celebrated in the documentary Woman in Motion which opens the Florida Film Festival this weekend. Director Todd Thompson joins us for a conversation about the trail blazing actor who helped others forge a career in space.

Thompson says Nichelle struck up a friendship with NASA’s director of science, Jesco von Puttkamer after the two met at a Star Trek convention.

“He happened to be on the panel at one of the conventions that Nichelle was on,” says Thompson.

“And that’s when she realized that the character that she portrayed on TV and the show Star Trek, wasn’t really the reality of what the space program was.”

Thompson says NASA was in the process of recruiting astronauts for the Space Shuttle program.

“They were in a bit of trouble because the program was about to start and they were short on astronauts. So that’s when Jesco approached Nichelle and said, ‘Why don’t you get involved with this,'” says Thompson.

“She said, ‘If I do, I want to do it my way. I want to create the Star Trek universe that I portrayed on TV.’ And that’s exactly what she did,” says Thompson.

“The first class of astronauts in 1978 was the first diverse class that NASA ever had, and a lot of those recruits came from Nichelle.”

 


Get The 90.7 WMFE Newsletter

Your trusted news source for the latest Central Florida news, updates on special programs and more.

GET THE LATEST
Stay tuned in to our local news coverage: Listen to 90.7 WMFE on your FM or HD radio, the WMFE mobile app or your smart speaker — say “Alexa, play NPR” and you’ll be connected.

WMFE Journalistic Ethics Code | Public Media Code of Integrity

About Matthew Peddie

Matt Peddie

TOP