On Tuesday, September 15th, 2015, Nichelle Nichols, the now 82 year young veteran Star Trek actress best known for her portrayal of Lt. Uhura, literally flew into the upper stratosphere on board NASA’s SOFIA 747 aircraft, which stands for Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).
SOFIA is a joint project between NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), which is actually an airborne observatory constructed within the modified body of a 747, with a large door in the rear portion of the plane that can open while in flight. Once open, this high level open access to the Earth’s stratosphere allows a reflecting infrared telescope proper access to the full range the telescope’s spectrum, which would otherwise be unattainable from Earth’s surface.
SOFIA’s ability to fly in the Earth’s upper stratosphere allows the modified 747 to rise above practically all of the water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere, which otherwise serve to block a good deal of infrared wavelengths from reaching the ground.
The space faring thespian joined SOFIA’s crew and accompanying teachers to study the “formation of massive stars & the evolution of planetary construction material” as posted by her on Twitter account, Tuesday night at 7:39 p.m.
The still beautiful actress also hosted a live Q & A session while in flight fielding questions such as “How does the telescope obtain a stable picture from a moving object? How does it compensate for the motion?” as asked by Teri La Rocca, as well as, “How does the open telescope door affect the flight characteristics of the 747 SP?” as asked by Ian Petchenik.
Ms. Nichols answered both questions appropriately and others by saying, “The telescope is mounted on a sperical bearing to isolate it from aircraft motion & is stabilized w/ gyroscopes.” along with, “It’s designed so that the open door does not affect how the aircraft flies!”
Ms. Nichols continued to Tweet wonderful messages and images throughout her exciting mission and did her best to bring education and mission awareness about SOFIA’s amazing capabilities and ongoing mission to both the public and many young minds across the world.
Bravo Ms. Nichols, keep up the good and bold work and may you continue to live long and prosper!