When I was growing up, Star Trek was just starting to snowball in popularity. Most of the fans gravitated to the stars, William Shatner as Captain Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock. But me — it was Lieutenant Uhura. She didn’t have a big role, but she was a woman on the bridge of a starship, on essentially the front lines, of space exploration.
It was an exciting time, because a year later, a test space shuttle was unveiled, and space exploration was about to change. The space shuttle was seen as a reusable vessel and many missions were planned. NASA didn’t recruit men — they recruited women. I gobbled up pictures of Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura, in Ebony. She’d gone from fictional space explorer to recruiting women and minorities.
The first woman to go into space was Sally Ride. I remember all the photos in the paper of her next to the male astronauts, and she made me think about the possibilities. I watched as the space shuttle she was in climbed in the sky, higher and higher, leaving a fiery trail. It was dangerous, frightening, and exciting, and she was first.
A fictional character showed us women could do anything. Sally Ride proved it.
“All adventures, especially into new territory, are scary.” – Sally Ride