Mae C. Jemison - The First Black Woman In SpaceApr 12, 2021 03:00PM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho
April 12th is International Day of Human Space Flight, which celebrates the beginning of the space era for mankind, reaffirming the important contribution of space science and technology in achieving sustainable development goals and increasing the well-being of both states and people. On this year’s International Day of Human Space Flight, we celebrate the first Black woman in space, Mae. C. Jemison.
Born October 17, 1956, in Decatur, Alabama, Mae Carol Jemison is an American physician and the first African American woman to become an astronaut. In 1992, she spent more than a week orbiting Earth in the space shuttle Endeavour. As a child, Jemison loved science and stargazing and avidly watched the moon landings on television. As a high school student, she became interested in biomedical engineering, and after graduating in 1973 at the age of 16, she entered Stanford University. She graduated in 1977 with two degrees, one in chemical engineering and the other in African American studies.
"As a little girl growing up on the south side of Chicago in the 60s, I always knew I was going to be in space," Jemison said during a 2013 lecture at Duke University. Jemison went on to Cornell Medical School to study in international medicine while also attending classes at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. After volunteering for a summer in a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand, she studied in Kenya in 1979. A staff role with the Peace Corps then took her to Liberia and Sierra Leone between 1983 and 1985.
After returning to the U.S, Jemison applied to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to be an astronaut, but the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster postponed the selection of new candidates. In 1987, Jemison was one of 15 selected for the prestigious NASA program. She completed her training as a mission specialist with NASA in 1988. She then became an astronaut office representative with the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, working to process space shuttles for launching and to verify shuttle software.
In September 1992, Jemison flew into space along with six other astronauts aboard the Endeavour space shuttle and logged more than 190 hours before returning to Earth on September 20, 1992. Jemison left NASA in March 1993 and went on to teach at Dartmouth College. That same year she became the first real astronaut to appear in Star Trek. She later founded the Dorothy Jemison Foundation, an organization that gives students the tools they need to improve society.
Today, Jemison is the president and CEO of a medical technology company, BioSentient, as well as the current principal of 100 Year Starship, a joint project between the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA, which seeks to achieve interstellar travel within 100 years."Don't let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It's your place in the world; it's your life," Jemison famously said. "Go on and do all you can with it and make it the life you want to live."
Boitumelo Masihleho is a South African digital content creator. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Rhodes University in Journalism and Media Studies and Politics and International Studies.
She's an experienced multimedia journalist who is committed to writing balanced, informative and interesting stories on a number of topics. Boitumelo has her own YouTube channel where she shares her love for affordable beauty and lifestyle content.