George Takei and fellow “Star Trek” cast member Nichelle Nichols appeared on MSNBC on July 8 to discuss the end of NASA’s space shuttle program.
Atlantis blasted off that morning on the 135th and final shuttle mission, just over 30 years after the Columbia went on the first mission. Nichols was in Florida to witness the last launch.
Takei and Nichols, who played Sulu and Uhura, respectively, were among the “Star Trek” cast members who attended the rollout of the first shuttle, the Enterprise, in 1976 in Palmdale. Also present were “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry and actors Leonard Nimoy (Spock), DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy), James Doohan (Scotty) and Walter Koenig (Chekov).
Named after the TV series’ iconic starship, the Enterprise was a prototype and was not designed for space flight. After a variety of ground and flight tests, it was added to the Smithsonian Institution’s permanent collection in 1985.
Takei and Nichols said they were proud to help NASA’s recruitment programs over the decades.
“The strength of that starship lay in its diversity,” Takei said, noting that the USS Enterprise crew, like the real-life shuttle crews, included men and women of different races and nationalities. “We were invited to participate in that program to talk about diversity.”
“We felt very privileged,” he added. “We’re very sorry to see it coming to an end.”