Lt. Uhura's NASA homecoming
Nichelle Nichols will be at NASA today to discuss the GRAIL mission.
September 8th, 2011
12:12 PM ET

Lt. Uhura's NASA homecoming

Fans of “Star Trek” already know that Nichelle Nichols is not just the actress who played Lieutenant Uhura, the iconic character on the original series. Her intelligent portrayal of the chief communications officer of the USS Enterprise ended up inspiring an entire generation of actual astronauts. The notion of being a woman who could fly in outer space is cited by more than one NASA employee.

So it’s only fitting that on the 45th anniversary of the "Star Trek" series debut, Nichols is at the Kennedy Space Center today to meet with spectators and witness NASA’s latest efforts at expanding our knowledge of the moon and future manned space missions.

NASA plans to take the first step in returning to the moon by launching a Delta II rocket with a payload dubbed the GRAIL mission (short for Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory). The twin spacecrafts will be flung into orbit with the moon, where they will map the planet’s gravitational field.

It’s all in an effort to better understand how the moon and the earth came into existence, but also it’s a first step in possibly setting up a permanent base on our closest celestial neighbor.

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