RIP: Nichelle Nichols (aka Lt. Nyota Uhura)

Image (Credit): Lt. Nyota Uhura on the deck of the U.S.S. Enterprise. (Paramount)

This weekend we lost actress Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Nyota Uhura on the original Star Trek television series. She was 89.

Back in 1966, her role as part of the crew on the U.S.S. Enterprise was a risky and eye-opening move by creator Gene Roddenberry in a nation divided by race (as well as many other issues – sound familiar?). In an NPR interview, Mr. Nichols noted how civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. encouraged her to remain with the Star Trek series at a time she was considering leaving:

He complimented me on the manner in which I’d created the character. I thanked him, and I think I said something like, Dr. King, I wish I could be out there marching with you. He said, no, no, no. No, you don’t understand. We don’t need you on the – to march. You are marching. You are reflecting what we are fighting for. So, I said to him, thank you so much. And I’m going to miss my co-stars.

And his face got very, very serious. And he said, what are you talking about? And I said, well, I told Gene just yesterday that I’m going to leave the show after the first year because I’ve been offered – and he stopped me and said: You cannot do that. And I was stunned. He said, don’t you understand what this man has achieved? For the first time, we are being seen the world over as we should be seen. He says, do you understand that this is the only show that my wife Coretta and I will allow our little children to stay up and watch. I was speechless.

An impressive endorsement.

The last time I saw Ms. Nichols was on the History Channel special on the television series: The Center Seat: 55 Years of Star Trek. I enjoyed listening to her stories about her time with the television series and related movies. I recommend the program as a way to learn more about Ms. Nichols as well as the other actors associated with the Star Trek phenomena.

ISS Research Projects

Image (Credit): International Space Station. (NASA)

Have you ever wondered about all of the scientific projects, past and present, on the International Space Station (ISS)? Quite a bit has happened onboard the station since it was first occupied back in November 2000.

Fortunately, NASA maintains an inventory of all of these projects. The Space Station Research Explorer provides information on all of the experiments, separated into six categories:

  • Biology and Biotechnology;
  • Earth and Space Science;
  • Educational Activities;
  • Human Research;
  • Physical science; and
  • Technology.

For instance, back in 2017 the station supported an experiment under “Earth and Space Science” titled ASTERIA:

The Arcsecond Space Telescope Enabling Research in Astrophysics (ASTERIA) is a six-unit (6U) CubeSat deployed from the International Space Station (ISS) that tests new technologies for astronomical observation, such as the detection of planets outside our solar system (a.k.a., exoplanets). Observing exoplanets requires repeated observation of stars over a long period of time from a dark environment, so that the small shadow of an orbiting planet can be detected passing through the star’s light. ASTERIA uses advanced pointing control technology, new thermal stabilization features, and the scalable CubeSat-platform to perform these complex measurements.

Some projects still lack information. These incomplete projects tend to be sponsored by ROSCOSMOS, though the Russian space agency has plenty of complete projects as well.

Poke around and see what you can find.

Space Quotes: Russia is Pulling Out of the ISS? Maybe Not

Image (Credit): Russian cosmonauts headed for the ISS get ready to board the Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft prior to its launch at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 18, 2022. (Roscosmos)

“Of course, we will fulfill all our obligations to our partners, but the decision about withdrawing from the station after 2024 has been made.”

-Statement by Yuri Borisov regarding Russia’s participation in the International Space Station (ISS), as quoted by Reuters. Mr. Borisov was recently appointed director-general of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos. However, like his predecessor, he may have spoken without thinking through the consequences. Time magazine quoted Vladimir Solovyov, an ISS flight director, who stated, “We, of course, need to continue operating the ISS until we create a more or less tangible backlog for ROSS. We must take into account that if we stop manned flights for several years, then it will be very difficult to restore what has been achieved.” In other words, the withdrawal may not be anytime soon. Not a very good start for Mr. Borisov.

Pic of the Week: Blue Ring Around the Crater

Image (Credit): Martian crater. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

This week’s image may appear to be a mining pit in Arizona, but in fact it is a crater in Mar’s southern hemisphere. The blue dust near the top of the crater’s rim is frozen carbon dioxide. The image was taken from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter using its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment.

Here is more information about the image from NASA:

Every winter, a layer of carbon dioxide frost (dry ice) forms on the surface of Mars. At its greatest extent in mid-winter, this frost reaches from the poles down to the middle latitudes, until it is too warm and sunny to persist. In most places this is around 50 degrees latitude, similar to the latitude of southern Canada on Earth.

However, small patches of dry ice are found closer to the equator on pole-facing slopes, which are colder because they receive less sunlight. This image was taken in the middle of winter in Mars’ Southern Hemisphere, and shows a crater near 37 degrees south latitude. The south-facing slope has patchy bright frost, blue in enhanced color. This frost occurs in and around the many gullies on the slope, and in other images, has caused flows in the gullies.

A Red Smudge That’s 35 Billion Light-Years Away

Image (Credit): Galaxy CEERS-93316. (NASA)

Using the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), Scottish astronomers at the University of Edinburgh believe they have spotted a galaxy that is about 35 billion light-years away, showing us the galaxy as it would have appeared 235 million years after the Big Bang. This would make it the most distant galaxy ever captured by astronomers.

The BBC News story noted that the Edinburgh astronomers obtained their information from a wide-field survey of the sky that JWST is currently conducting called the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science (CEERS) Survey.

The galaxy reported by the University team is CEERS-93316. We should expect more such findings from this Survey as astronomers dig into the data.