Mae Jemison is an American Physician and a former NASA Astronaut. Jemison is the first African American woman to travel in space.
Mae Carol Jemison was born on October 17, 1956 in Decatur, Alabama. When she was three years old, her family moved to Chicago, Illinois, where she studied at the Morgan Park High School. During her teenage years, Jemison was highly interested in a career in either science or dancing; she followed her mother’s advice which she quoted was “You can always dance if you’re a doctor, but you can’t doctor if you’re a dancer”, and so the young Jemison was accepted by Stanford University at the tender age of sixteen. She later graduated with a B.S in Chemical Engineering and with a B.A. in African and Afro-American Studies. Jemison then studied medicine at the Cornell Medical College, from where she graduated in 1981.
During her first years as a physician, Jemison travelled to Cuba, Thailand, and Kenya to promote primary medical care there. She then joined the Peace Corps in 1983 as a Medical Officer for the Peace Corps Volunteers of Liberia and Sierra Leone. Jemison then applied to the NASA Astronaut Program in 1983. She was rejected for the first round of applications, but she received a call in 1987 which invited her to the program.
Jemison then worked with NASA as a Shuttle Avionics Specialist at the Kennedy Space Center. Her first and only space mission was from September 12-20, 1992, as a Mission Specialist. The mission, titled ‘STS-47’, included 44 life sciences and materials experiments. Jemison spent a total of 190 hours, 30 minutes, and 23 seconds in space.
Jemison recalled that the first thing she saw from space was her hometown, Chicago. Jemison also brought along many other objects to space with her, these included a poster from her dance company to commemorate her love for dance, a picture of Bessie Coleman, who was the first African American Woman to fly in an airplane, and several other art objects from Western African countries to signify that space belongs to everyone.
Jemison resigned from NASA in 1993; she stated that she wished to research the application of technology to daily life, which she did with her own company, The Jemison Group. The Jemison Group was initiated to “research, market, and develop science and technology for daily life”. She also founded the remarkably popular international science camp titled “The Earth We Share”; the camp aims to encourage young teenagers to tackle global problems such as unsustainable population growth and global warming.
A year after her space flight, Jemison appeared on an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” as Lieutenant Palmer. Jemison holds the distinction of being the only real life astronaut to appear on the Star Trek Franchise.
Jemison served as a Professor of Environmentalist Studies at Dartmouth College from 1995 to 2002. Currently, she serves as a Professor-at-Large at Cornell University.
Mae Jemison is a recipient of the highly prestigious Kilby Science Award. She is also an inductee to the International Space Hall of Fame. Jemison also holds nine honorary doctorate degrees in science, engineering, humanities, and letters.