10 Feb 2020

Meet Dr Mae Jemison


Mae Jemison is an American engineer, physician, and former NASA astronaut. She became the first black woman to travel in space when she served as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. She orbited the Earth for nearly eight days on September 12–20, 1992.


Early life

Mae knew from a young age that she wanted to go into space. She was inspired by Star Trek, especially Nichelle Nichols’ portrayal of Lieutenant Uhura.

At age 16, she began studying at Stanford University. She found it difficult but graduated in 1977 with 2 degrees – 1 in chemical engineering and another in African and African-American studies. Whilst at Stanford, she considered going to space but went to Cornell University to study medicine, becoming a GP.


Meet Dr Mae Jemison - Mae in space | Stemettes Zine



Her GP training took her to work for the Peace Corps in West Africa as a medical officer. As well as her first language English, she learned how to speak Russian, Japanese and Swahili!

When she returned to the United States she decided to follow her childhood dream of becoming an astronaut. Inspired by Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, she applied to NASA’s astronaut program. Out of 2000 applicants, Mae made it into the top 15 people for one year of astronaut training. In 1992, Mae became the first female African American in space. On the space shuttle Endeavour, with 6 other astronauts, Mae orbited the earth 126 times. Her job on the shuttle was to be a co-investigator of bone cell research experiments.


Return to Earth

On returning to Earth, Mae resigned from NASA. She went on to teach at Dartmouth College and set up her own company Jemison Group. Here, she encourages a love for science in students and brings advanced technology worldwide.

Now an active public speaker, she promotes her love for science, and technology around the world, as well as appearing on TV. You can see Mae in a 1993 episode of Star Trek!

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