Given Star Trek’s role in promoting diversity in real-life space exploration, having the first African-American female astronaut on the show was a no-brainer, especially since Jemison was inspired by Uhura herself, Nichelle Nichols, and became good friends with her. Nichelle Nichols worked with Nasa, making recruitment and training films, and supervising astronaut recruits. Most of the recruits she attracted were women and people of color, so Jemison’s appearance onscreen was a kind of a full-circle moment. Jemison’s cameo was as a transporter operator, Lt Palmer in the TNG episode Second Chances. Her fandom extended to her duties while in space; she began each shift by informing Mission Control in Houston that “hailing frequencies were open”, Uhura’s catchphrase.
She was also the first real-life astronaut to appear on the show.
Jemison is currently the principal of the 100 Year Starship project, a joint effort by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA “to take the first step in the next era of space exploration—a journey between the stars”, with Levar Burton initially serving on the advisory board. In 2012 the Starship Project was named one of the 100 most wasteful government projects, by Senator Tom Coburn, for holding a workshop entitled “Did Jesus die for Klingons too?” that debated the implications of the discovery of alien life for Christian philosophy. But despite that, the project is still going.