Mae Jemison: First Black woman in space

More than an astronaut who served NASA for six years, Dr. Mae Jemison is a medical doctor, dance choreographer, actor. She has received 18 awards, has 6 institutions named for her and received 10 honorary doctorates. She has also written, or co-written numerous publications. No wonder, she is a part of the National Women’s Hall of Fame (1993) and the international Space Hall of Fame (2004) as a champion of women rights and civil rights movement.

Born on October 17, 1956, Jemison graduated in 1977 with a B.S. degree in chemical engineering and a B.A. degree in African and African American studies. While at Stanford, Dr. Jemison continued to study dance, enrolling in classes at the Alvin Alley American Dance Theater. She also pursued studies related to space and considered applying to NASA. In 1981, Dr. Jemison graduated with her M.D. degree from the Cornell Medical School, then interned at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.

She later joined the Peace Corps, where she worked for two years, and after her return, she entered private medical practice and enrolled in graduate level engineering courses. Dr. Jemison was inspired by astronauts Sally Ride and Guion Bluford. She applied for NASA’s astronaut training program in 1985.

On September 28, 1989, Dr. Jemison was selected to be a Science Mission Specialist aboard STS-47 on the Space Shuttle Endeavor. The Science Mission Specialist was a new astronaut role being tested by NASA to focus on scientific experiments.

Dr. Jemison and the crew of Space Shuttle Endeavor lifted off on September 12, 1992.The launch marked a cooperative mission between the United States and Japan. It was also the 50th shuttle mission. In all, Dr. Jemison logged 190 hours, 30 minutes, and 23 seconds in space, orbiting the earth 127 times. The crew was split into two shifts, with Dr. Jemison assigned to the Blue Shift. Throughout the mission she opened communications with the salute, “Hailing frequencies open,” a quote from Star Trek.

After her endeavor, Jemison continues to be a vocal advocate for improving education access and advocating for greater inclusion of girls in STEM programs.

In 1994, Jemison founded the international science camp – The Earth We Share (TEWS) for students 12-16 years old from around the world. In 2011, Jemison also launched the TEWS-Space Race, with the goal of improving science achievement for underserved Los Angeles-area students who are underrepresented in the sciences.

Her book, Find Where the Wind Goes, is geared for teenagers, and explores her experiences growing up on the South Side of Chicago, cultivating her aspirations to be a scientist, and her history-making journey into space.

Following her time in NASA, Jemison founded both The Jemison Group and BioSentient Corporation. A technology consulting firm, The Jemison Group explores and develops stand-alone science and technology programs, integrating the critical impact of socio-cultural issues with revolutionary technologies.

Currently, Jemison leads “The 100 Year Starship (100YSS)”, a revolutionary initiative to assure the capability for human interstellar space travel to another star within the next century.


This article is a compilation of information from Wikipedia and other publications.