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Nichols Books Trip On Flying Observatory

Just a few months after stroke, actress will fly SOFIA

Is there anything that can keep Nichelle Nichols down?

Not even a small stroke, apparently.

Nichols, how played Uhura in the original "Star Trek" series, will not only stay down, but she's going to get as close to space as she can. The 82-year-old will take off on a specially converted Boeing 747 in September, allowing her to travel with the SOFIA space telescope nearly 10 miles above the Earth's surface in the planet's stratosphere.

SOFIA stands for the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, and is a joint project of both NASA and the German Aerospace Center. It came online in 2010, and is a telescope that looks at space, while just touching the boundary of outer space itself.

The project itself is in jeopardy, however. A NASA budget line last year said SOFIA could be grounded by this year if Germany doesn't start contributing its financial share of the project. It takes about 100 flights per year.

This would not be the first time Nichols has traveled high in the sky with a telescope. The actress also hitched a ride with SOFIA's predecessor, the Kuiper Airborne Observatory, in 1977. That telescope made a lot of history, especially the discovery of rings around Uranus the same year Nichols flew with it.

The KAO's last mission was in 1995, and the plane is now an exhibit at Moffett Federal Airfield near Mountain View, Calif.

"It's an amazing experience," Nichols told fans during a recent Reddit conversation. "You get a totally different perspective than from Earth."

Nichols won't just be flying with telescopes. She's also returning to the convention circuit, beginning with the Steel City Con next weekend near Pittsburgh, Pa.

Source: The Mirror


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