The Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit opened this weekend, and I’m terribly jealous of everyone who made it out to the Kennedy Space Center. The last orbiter to be built by NASA, the shuttle represents the long history of hope for manned space flight. As goes in the astronomy field, of all the (badass) astronauts who flew on Atlantis, most were white and male. None were Black women. Ellen Ochoa was the only Latina to fly on Atlantis, and is to-date the only Latina woman to travel to space.
In fact, only 57 women from all nations have traveled into space. Only 14 African Americans have traveled into space, only 3 of whom were Black women. 12 Latino or Hispanic astronauts have traveled into space, and Ellen Ochoa is the only Latina woman. The numbers for astronauts of color is pretty low across the board.
Considering Uhura from Star Trek was an inspiration for the first Black woman astronaut, maybe diversifying the space-worlds created in fiction might help add a little color to our space programs. Earth might be stewed in white patriarchy, but let’s leave that ish behind. Maybe some of these astronomically-minded women of color in fiction can inspire more POCs and women in a star-ward direction.
MIRANDA MERCURY is one of my favorite space-faring ladies in comics. Created by writer Brandon Thomas, Miranda Mercury is a galactic adventurer in her own self-titled graphic novel The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury. Miranda travels with her sidekick Jack Warning while fighting evil-doers and hunting down magical artifacts. Miranda was injected with a long-acting poison by one of her enemies, a poison that will kill her in a year. In a race against time, she scours the universe for a cure and for revenge.
ZOE WASHBURNE (played by(the amazing) actress Gina Torres) – Literally born on a spaceship, Zoe Washburne (nee Alleyne) is a character in the show Firefly. She served in the Unification War under Sergeant Malcolm Reynolds, before joining his ragtag crew of misfit pirate cowboys aboard the spaceship Serenity. Zoe eventually married fellow crew member and pilot Wash (Hoban Washburne). Zoe‘s role on the ship is as second-in-command, battle tactician, and “the muscle” (that is, much more intelligent muscle than crew badboy Jayne).
ANASTASIA DUALLA (played by actress Kandyse McClure) – In the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica TV show, Lieutenant Dualla was a communications officer aboard the military spaceship Battlestar Galactica. A native of Sagittaron, she quickly ascends from petty officer to Lieutenant and marries Commander Lee Adama and the two later divorce amicably. Dualla commits suicide after the crew discovers Earth and finds that it is inhabitable.
Athena aka Sharon Agathon
Sharon Agathon was a cylon and lieutenant on the sci-fi show Battlestar Galactica. Originally loyal to the cause of the cylons, Sharon fell in love with a human officer and joined the Battlestar crew first as a suspect cylon prisoner before gaining the trust of many (certainly not all) of the Battlestar crew and gaining the call sign Athena. Fiercly dedicated to the child she has with her husband Helo (aka Karl Agathon), Athena puts her daughter before anything. While the other “Sharon” cylons are messing up, crying, or just downright confused, Athena always has her priorities straight and at the end of the day she gets what she wants. Also she can put a hurtin’ on.
MARILYN JONES is a veteran space jockey in the brand spanking new comic by John Byrne The HighWays. She’s been travelling the space ways for years and is the first friendly face that new recruit Eddie Wallace meets. It’s not long before Jones and the crew find themselves embroiled in all sorts of trouble and shenanigans. Throughout the mayhem and deception Jones is always cool-headed and on-top-of things, even when she has to pause to throw a little side-eye at someone being dense. She’s the real hero of the story. The trade collecting the entire miniseries is out this week!
HOSHI SATO was the communications officer on the star ship Enterprise in the tv show Star Trek: Enterprise. Played by actress Linda Park, Hoshi knew more than 40 languages and was possibly the best linguist in star fleet. With a black belt in Aikido, she was more than just a good talker. She was an integral character on the show and went on to develop a universal translation matrix. (*Anyone starting to notice an abundance of “communcations” gigs for the women in space?)
AFROELLA – Member of the Ella’s, the Elite Lunisolar Liberty Agents, Afroella along with her sidekick DIVA (Digital Interactive Virtual Assistant), flies through the galaxy kicking ass and taking names in the name of justice, all while keeping her fro in check and her lips glossed. (She is decidedly not a communications officer.) Created by comics writer Gemma Bedeau, the character owes some inspiration to blaxploitation character Barbarella. Issue #2 is out now!
TRUDY CHACON (played by actress Michelle Rodriguez made was a super-skilled fighter pilot in the movie Avatar. A former Marine, this woman doesn’t play around. She eventually joins forces with the Na’vi, lending her hardcore pilot skills to their cause, and earns them some major wins. Unfortunately, she doesn’t live to drink the champagne, but she went out guns blazing and died a hero (in a kinda pointless war started by a a kind dumb dude, if you ask me, but that’s beside the point…)
The unforgettable, mysterious, and dynamice Wh- I mean… GUINAN (played by actress Whoopi Goldberg) was a character on Star Trek. Originally from El-Auria, Guinan is somewhere between 500 and 700 years old when she joins the Enterprise as a bartender. Many of the crew members seek her out for her wisdom on many matters.
And of course the one who started it all…
LT. NYOTA UHURA was a character in the original Star Trek series in the late 60’s and 70’s, played by actress Nichelle Nichols and later by Zoe Saldana in the reboot. Uhura was one of the first Black characters to play a significant role in an American TV series. She is a communications officer from the United States of Africa and a native Swahili speaker. Her last name comes from the Swahili word for “freedom”. Her first name, which was never used until the 2009 film, is Swahili for “star”. In the 1968 episode “Plato’s Stepchildren“, Uhura and Captain Kirk kiss. The episode is popularly cited as the first example of a scripted inter-racial kiss on United States television. Uhura did not have any romantic story line until the 2009 reboot. Actress Nichols had planned to leave Star Trek in 1967 after its first season, but a conversation with Martin Luther King, Jr. persuaded her to stay, when he told her she was a role model for the black community. Whoopi Goldberg and Dr. Mae Jamison both cite her as their inspiration.