Monday, July 23, 2012
For the highly anticipated cast and crew premiere screening at Paramount, the UPN honchos and Voyager co-creators Rick Berman, Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor (in background) joined new lead Kate Mulgrew—whose Janeway role had been the brainchild of Taylor—and made sure to make a little history that night as well.
Who else to honor on such an auspicious night for the world's biggest space adventure and its first female regular captain .... than America's first female astronaut and high-flying gender pioneer, Dr. Sally K. Ride?
(I was there that night in the front press row, a recent arrival in LA myself, and I'm danged if I can locate my good original photos this second. Instead, here's the studio photog's image we ran in Communicator/Issue 101—so apologies for the print-screen.)
Ride passed away today of pancreatic cancer at 61, having made her mark at age 31 in 1983 as American's first woman in space, and then-youngest ever, at age 32. She left NASA in 1987 after nine years and one more mission, with a third mission postponed by the Challenger disaster and her sitting on the accident's review commission. She resigned to work at Stanford's Center for International Security and Arms Control, as her spot in history will always be assured.
But back on the Paramount Pictures main theater stage in 1995, after honoring Ride for such contributions to space exploration, Mulgrew presented her with a plaque and combadge from the show's sets so Ride "could beam up whenever she felt the need to." In line with the historic mutual love affair overall between Star Trek and NASA—America's fictional and real-life space heroes—Ride's remarks that night revealed she was suitably touched and honored to be a part of another landmark for women in culture.
Ride even had a second and earlier link to the franchise, of course, in that she was in the group of new astronauts chosen from among women and minorities recruited by the NASA program Nichelle "Uhura" Nichols headed in the 1970s-80s.